In action research your initial research question is likely to be fuzzy. This is mainly because of the nature of social systems. It is also because you are more likely to achieve your action outcomes if you take the needs and wishes of your clients into account. Your methodology will be fuzzy too. After all, it derives from the research question, which is fuzzy, and the situation, which is partly unknown.
If you address a fuzzy question with a fuzzy methodology the best you can hope for initially is a fuzzy answer Figure 3. This, I think, explains some of the opposition that action research draws from some quarters. But here is the important point Provided that the fuzzy answer allows you to refine both question and methods , you eventually converge towards precision. It is the spiral process which allows both responsiveness and rigour at the same time.
In any event, the whole purpose of action research is to determine simultaneously an understanding of the social system and the best opportunities for change. The question arises from the study. This is the most important reason for choosing action research: Use more conventional research methods.
As it happens, one of the key principles of action research is: At each step, use the information so far available to determine the next step.
Second, at all times try to work with multiple information sources, preferably independent or partly independent. There are ways in which you can use the similarities and differences between data sources to increase the accuracy of your information. This might be called dialectic. It is similar to what is often called triangulation in research Jick, For more background on this important topic you might read some of the material on multimethod research.
Any two or more sources of information can serve your purpose of creating a dialectic. Here are a few examples. I have described elsewhere a data-collection method, convergent interviewing Dick, b , which uses paired interviews to create a dialectic. This illustrates the principle. After each pair of interviews, the idiosyncratic information is discarded. Probe questions are then devised for later interviews.
Their purpose is to test any agreements by finding exceptions, and to explain any disagreements Figure 4. So, for example, if two interviewees agree about X , whatever X is, look for exceptions in later interviews. If the interviewees disagree about X , try in later interviews to explain the disagreement. If only one person mentions X , ignore it.
In effect, treat agreement sceptically by seeking out exceptions. The disagreement between the original data and the exceptions can then be resolved, leading you deeper into the situation you are researching. It is an important feature of this approach that the later interviews differ from the earlier interviews. This gives you the chance to be suspicious of your emerging interpretation, and to refine your method and your questions. Each interview or pair of interviews becomes a turn of the research spiral.
For an independent assessment of convergent interviewing as a qualitative research tool see Thompson, Donohue and Waters-Marsh What I suggest you do is follow these two groundrules, and explain them clearly in your thesis. You will be less liable to the criticisms which some action research theses have faced in the past.
The purpose in action research is to learn from your experience, and apply that learning to bringing about change. As the dynamics of a social system are often more apparent in times of change Lewin, , learning and change can enhance each other.
However, you are more likely to learn from an experience if you act with intent. Enter the experience with expectations. Be on the lookout for unmet expectations. Seek to understand them. A more elaborate form is shown in Figure 5. It is by being deliberate and intentional about this process that you can maximise your learning. At each of the steps you learn something.
Sometimes you are recalling what you think you already understand. At other steps you are either confirming your previous learning or deciding from experience that your previous learning was inadequate. This is equivalent to what Gummesson calls the "hermeneutic spiral", where each turn of the spiral builds on the understanding at the previous turn. It is these -- the responsiveness to the situation, and the striving after real understanding -- which define action research as a viable research strategy.
This helps to explain why action research tends also to be qualitative and participative. In quantitative research you often have to give a fair amount of time and attention to the development of an appropriate metric or system of measurement. Every time you change your mind about your research question you risk having to modify your metric. Participation favours qualitative methods. Participation by the client group as informed sources of information gives you a better chance of discovering what they know and you currently do not.
They are more likely to join you as equal partners in this endeavour if you speak to them in their own language for instance, everyday English than in numbers or technical language. In addition to gaining some background knowledge of action research, you also need enough prior information to enable an intelligent choice of methodology. The following section describes four action research methodologies.
As I have said, there are paradigms such as action research , methodologies soft systems analysis, for example , and methods. You will change your mind during the course of the study about methods, so you need not concern yourself too much about them now. There are advantages in following a published approach.
In particular it can be simpler to use a process described by an author who has sufficiently explained and justified it. In your eventual thesis it is then someone else who is providing much of the justification for what you do.
This is less risky than having to provide it yourself. Satisfy yourself that the argument is well made. Better still, suggest some improvements. Below, I give brief accounts of four methodologies.
One is participatory action research, to some extent in the style of the "critical action research" of Kemmis and his colleagues at Deakin University Carr and Kemmis, ; Kemmis and McTaggart, A second is action science as developed by Argyris and his colleagues for example Argyris, Putnam and Smith, The fourth, evaluation, is itself a large family of methodologies.
I draw to some extent on the work of Patton for example, and Snyder personal communication. I do not assume that the developers of these methodologies would necessarily agree with my summary of them. The action research literature is reasonably large, and growing. It is often characterised by process-oriented, practical descriptions of action research methods. Action research in education, in particular, is common. To select from the large number available, I might mention as examples Elliott , McKernan , and Winter Each of these is written from a different perspective.
A number of works which use the Deakin model provide useful reading. Kemmis is one. Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt a, b has recently published two books in this tradition.
You may also want to supplement your reading from works on qualitative research generally. Marshall and Rossman is a good starting point. Whyte contains a collection of papers mostly illustrating participatory action research with case studies done in a variety of settings. If you look at the bibliography you will find that three publishers in particular, Falmer and Kogan Page in England and especially Sage in the US, specialise in qualitative research.
When it comes to justifying your use of action research, I think the first half of Checkland provides a more coherent argument than most of the others. Not everyone agrees with me about this. Although he is describing soft systems methodology, described below, he explicitly identified it as an action research methodology Checkland, In his keynote address to the Action Learning Congress in Brisbane in he argued that a legitimate rigorous action research methodology requires an explicit methodological framework.
He claims most action research ignores this requirement. In addition, Checkland uses language which will be less of a challenge to the expectations of examiners unfamiliar with action research. In contrast, the arguments of Kemmis and his colleagues see below , and many other writers in the field, are occasionally polemical enough to stir defensiveness.
I advise caution in their use. There is also good material in some of the papers in the collection edited by Van Maanen If your examiners are familiar with action research, it may well be that this is the form they know best. Deakin also offers a distance education course in action research, reported electronically by McTaggart The Deakin University people work with a particular form of action research, and tend to be critical of other approaches.
If you use their method, it would be as well to document and argue for any deviations. As I said above, they also often argue more on ethical than epistemological grounds, and somewhat evangelically. Your best strategy for thesis purposes may be to use their processes, which are effective and well explained.
However, it may be better to find your arguments elsewhere. To help you place their approach in context, you may also want to read Grundy , This will help you distinguish the Deakin approach from some of its alternatives.
In addition, McTaggart has written a brief history of action research, with a particular emphasis on educational settings. The essence of the Deakin approach is the use of a defined cycle of research, and the use of participatory methods to produce "emancipation".
They call their approach emancipatory action research, and draw on European sources, especially on the critical theory of the Frankfurt school. The cycle or spiral which they describe consists of four steps: This cycle is carried out by the participants -- they conceive of action research as something done by the clients, not something done to the clients by a researcher.
To my mind one of the strengths of their approach is the emphasis on research which liberates those who are researched. Kemmis and McTaggart provide a description of the Deakin approach. Zuber-Skerritt a, b uses a similar framework. Anything by Richard Bawden, who runs a whole faculty on action research principles at the Hawkesbury campus of the University of Western Sydney, is likely to contain a thoughtful and well-argued commentary for example Bawden, His approach is in most respects consistent with that of the Deakin team.
Denham has done a coursework masters dissertation using action research, though not in the Deakin style. Participatory action research is a generic methodology. You could treat it as a back-up position for some other approach if you wished. It might also be a good choice if the research situation appears too ambiguous to allow a more specific choice. The next methodology, action science, is more specific. For some decades now, Chris Argyris has been developing a conceptual model and process which is at the one time a theory of social systems and an intervention method.
It is particularly appropriate to the researching of self-fulfilling prophecies, system dynamics based on communication flows, and relationships. The central idea is that, despite their espoused values, people follow unstated rules. These rules prevent them behaving as they might consciously wish. The result is interpersonal and system processes in which many problems are concealed. At the same time, taboos prevent the problems or their existence being mentioned. In effect, the unstated rules of the situation, and the unstated assumptions people form about each other, direct their interactions in both group and organisational settings Figure 6.
I know of no other system which integrates in so well-argued a fashion interpersonal, intrapersonal and system dynamics, and processes for research and intervention. As Argyris presents the approach it does depend on high quality relationships between researcher and client, and skilled facilitation. However, there are alternatives in the form of detailed processes which clients can manage for themselves. They have been used in one action research thesis to my knowledge, Anderson The book deals primarily with the effects of intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics on social systems.
The later book focuses more deliberately on system dynamics. Many people find this material hard to read. Argyris is easier to follow. People have told me that a book Tim Dalmau and I wrote Dick and Dalmau, sets out the concepts well. Your understanding of the relevant system dynamics may be helped by Senge , who describes system functioning in terms of interaction cycles. The research methodology is most clearly described in Argyris, Putnam and Smith It is also worth browsing through Argyris , which was written for consultants.
This is an action research project and action implies intervention. Argyris, too, is evangelical about his approach, and criticises other research methods. If you use his own arguments you may have to be careful to avoid offending some readers. Essentially it depends upon agreeing on processes which identify and deal with those unstated rules which prevent the honest exchange of information.
The diagram above can be used as a model for the type of information to surface. There is a strong emphasis on the people involved in the research being honest about their own intentions, and about their assumptions about each others motives. You can think of it as providing a detailed set of communication processes which can enhance other action research approaches.
I have treated action science as action research. While acknowledging action science as a form of action research they identify an important difference in focus. In particular, Argyris has argued here and elsewhere that normal social research is not capable of producing valid information. Without valid information the rigour of any action research endeavour is necessarily undermined.
As I understand him, he believes that action science is a research method which is capable of obtaining valid information about social systems where most other research methods, action research or otherwise, would fail.
Action science is a good choice of methodology if there are strong within-person and between person dynamics, especially if hidden agendas appear to be operating.
However, it probably requires better interpersonal skills and willingness to confront than do the other methodologies described here.
You can use a pre-designed process, but unless you sacrifice some flexibility you still require reasonably good skills. Soft systems methodology, which follows, is somewhat less demanding in terms of the interpersonal skills it requires. Soft systems methodology is a non-numerical systems approach to diagnosis and intervention.
Descriptions have been provided by Checkland , , Checkland and Scholes , Davies and Ledington , and Patching The book by Davies and Ledington is a good starting point. It also has the advantage that both authors are now in Brisbane. He provides a complementary description, as he writes as a practitioner. The other writers are academics. Jackson has provided a critique, partly sympathetic, of soft systems methodology and related approaches.
In the description which follows, I will first outline an inquiry process which stresses the notion of dialectic rather more than the descriptions given by the authors cited above. I then explain the specific features of soft systems methodology. In doing this I use the framework which this inquiry process provides. One form of inquiry process consists of three dialectics.
In each dialectic you or the researchers alternate between two forms of activity, using one to refine the other. Figure 7 outlines the process as a series of dialectics. The diagram may make this clearer. It is typical for each cycle in soft systems methodology to take place several times.
A better understanding develops through these iterations. Continuing uncertainty or ambiguity at any stage may trigger a return to an earlier stage.
To give more impact to the third dialectic, the first dialectic can be put deliberately out of mind when the second dialectic is current. In other words, when you are devising the ideal, try to forget how the actual system operates. In this way, the ideal is derived from the essence, to reduce contamination by the way the system actually behaves.
The comparison of ideal and actual then offers more points of contrast. I have taken some pains to describe the process as an inquiry process. If you wished you could use models other than systems models within the process. What converts this inquiry system into a soft systems analysis is the use of systems concepts in defining the essence and the ideal. In systems terminology the essence becomes the necessary functions. Checkland calls them root definitions.
To check that they are adequate he proposes what he calls a Catwoe analysis. Catwoe is an acronym for The ideal, too, is conceived of in systems terms by devising an ideal way of transforming the inputs into outputs.
Systems models help to suggest ways in which the different goals of the studied system can be achieved. In his earlier work Checkland described this as a seven-step process. Soft systems methodology is well suited to the analysis of information systems. For an example of a dissertation using it in agriculture see van Beek Reville has used it to evaluate a training scheme. It seems to lend itself to the analysis of decision-making systems generally. The next subsection deals with a more generic methodology: It is misleading to characterise evaluation as a single methodology.
There is probably far more written on evaluation alone than on all other action research methodologies combined. The approaches vary from those which are very positivist in their orientation for example, Suchman, to those which are explicitly and deliberately anti-positivist such as Guba and Lincoln, As is often so when people have to deal with the complexities of reality, the change in methodology over time has been mostly from positivism to action research and from quantitative to qualitative.
Cook and Shadish summarise the trends, explain the reasons for the shift from positivism, and in doing so provide some useful background. Yes, it is the same Cook who wrote on quasi-experimentation Cook and Campbell, This is one of the fringe benefits of using an evaluation methodology -- you can support your justification of your methodology with quotes from people who are well regarded in traditional research circles.
There is a sense in which the distinction between evaluation and some other processes is artificial. If you are working within an action research framework then appropriate diagnostic methods can be used for evaluation. So can appropriate evaluation methods be used for diagnosis. In both instances the situation is analysed with a view to bringing about change.
A fourth year research project by Reville has used soft systems methodology successfully as an evaluation tool. Bish , in a coursework masters dissertation, used a general action research approach for evaluation of a fourth year university course. Two writers who provide a copious justification for their approach to evaluation are Patton for instance , , and Guba ; Guba and Lincoln, , ; Lincoln and Guba, Of the two, Guba provides the more detailed description of how evaluation can be done.
The approach is also a little more carefully argued, though too polemical to be used carelessly. My own preferred approach is based on an evaluation model developed by Snyder personal communication , who once lectured at the University of Queensland. I have been developing it into a more systematic process while preserving its responsiveness. It is so far unpublished, though I can provide you with some papers on it Dick, a, among others.
It has been used in a number of settings and has featured in a coursework masters thesis by Bell However, if you use the Snyder model or other goal oriented models be aware of the debate about goals. Scriven and Stufflebeam between them cover the essentials. A brief description of a Snyder evaluation follows The Snyder "model" actually consists of a content model based on systems concepts and a number of processes.
The content model has inputs known as resources , transformations activities , and three levels of outputs: Figure 9 shows it diagrammatically. The processes allow you to address three forms of evaluation in sequence. Process evaluation helps you and your clients to understand how resources and activities accomplish immediate effects, targets and ideals.
Outcome evaluation uses this understanding to develop performance indicators and use them to estimate the effectiveness of the system. Short-cycle evaluation sets up feedback mechanisms to allow the system members to continue to improve the system over time. If done participatively the process component leads to immediate improvement of the system. As the participants develop a better understanding of the system they change their behaviour to make use of that understanding.
The outcome component can be used to develop performance indicators. The short-cycle component in effect creates a self-improving system by setting up better feedback mechanisms. You can think of it as a qualitative alternative to total quality management. Whatever the methodology you choose, you will require some means for collecting the information.
Firstly, two data collection methods have a strong dialectic built into them. One is convergent interviewing Dick, b. The second is delphi, a way of pooling data from a number of informants. It is usually done by mail; this makes the process easier to manage, though at the cost of reducing participation. It is described in some detail by Delbecq, Van de Ven and Gustafson Their brief and readable book also describes nominal group technique, which is a group data-collection process which allows all views to be taken into account.
To alert you to the dangers in using delphi there is a biting critique by Sackman A briefer and more sympathetic account appears in Armstrong For a recent example of a research masters thesis in social work using a mail delphi see Dunn I have described Dick, a face-to-face version of delphi, though one which requires more skilled facilitation than the mail version.
This same book, on group facilitation, contains descriptions of a number of methods for collecting and collating information in group settings. A further dialectic process, though not usually described in those terms, is conflict management or mediation. This is a process, or rather a family of processes, whose purpose is to reach agreement in situations characterised by disagreement. You can therefore regard conflict management as a set of processes for data collection and interpretation.
One of the clearest process descriptions is in Cornelius and Faire A further technique which can be turned easily into a dialectic process is group feedback analysis. Heller, who devised it, has described it in a number of papers for example , For other specific techniques you might consult McCracken on the long interview, and Morgan on focus groups.
You have to build your own dialectic into these methods. It is not difficult to modify it to give it whatever emphasis you desire. There are a number of recent general accounts of qualitative methods. Miles and Huberman focus primarily on methods for analysing qualitative data. Walker , Van Maanen , and Rutman present collections of papers, many of which are helpful in choosing methods. Market research techniques, for example as described by Kress can often be pressed into service. Gummesson takes a more macro approach with a particular emphasis on managerial settings.
Practical works on group facilitation can also be helpful. For example you might try Heron , or Corey and Corey My book entitled Helping groups to be effective Dick, is also relevant. It has quite a lot on methods of collecting and collating data in group settings. In this section I provide a description of the major phases of an action research project.
You are likely to find that the steps overlap, and on occasion you may have to revisit early steps to take account of later data collection and literature. Think of it as consisting of cycles within cycles. However, there are some broad stages. They are described immediately below Do some preliminary reading. If you have no idea what you are going to do, you may find it hard to explain to others.
If you choose the reading carefully, it can also be preparation for the introduction to your thesis. In that way you can check that you can provide an adequate justification.
At this stage, most of your reading is in the methodological literature. The content literature comes later, as you collect and interpret some of your data. If you are definitely researching a particular content area you will need to scan the more important literature in the field. For the most part, however, reading in the content literature at this stage can be wasted if the research takes off in a different direction.
In approaching the methodological literature, look for arguments you can use to justify your approach. At the same time, notice any approaches which seem to suit your intended research situation. Some of the chapters in Van Maanen are also appropriate. To give you some background on the use of qualitative data, you will probably find Patton valuable. So is Kirk and Miller Rigour without numbers Dick, a is useful and presents a somewhat different view.
For a general overview, Kemmis and McTaggart is valuable. Beware, though, that they have narrow ideas about what is acceptable as action research. Altrichter argues that action research has strong similarities to conventional research.
This may help you to make your research approach less alienating for an examiner. For general background it may also be worth your while to skim Guba But be careful about using the arguments from this book, as they tend to be polemical.
The literature on intervention is therefore relevant. Their "fourth generation evaluation", as they call it, is an evaluation technique which is clearly similar to action research. It integrates research and intervention systematically and well. Again, the arguments are somewhat polemical. French and Bell write on organisational change from an explicit action research perspective. Dunphy deals well with change techniques, in a book written specifically to integrate concepts and practice.
It has the added advantage that it was written for Australian conditions. However in my mind narrowly it criticises general systems theory as a basis for theorising about change.
Cummings and Huse describe organisational change in a way which relates it more directly to the academic research literature. This can be useful. If your interest is more in community change try Cox, Erlich, Rothman, and Tropman Although directed primarily towards rural innovation it draws on a wider literature than that, and has wider application.
It is a very good resource. I hope a new edition appears soon. You will eventually want to read about specific methods. For the most part, however, this can probably wait until you are a little further into the actual study. You can then return to the earlier sections of this paper or the appended bibliography for further reading.
In addition, Miles and Huberman may help you to gain some idea of the possibilities for collecting and analysing data. A general text on action research or qualitative research may be worth skimming. Have a look at their titles and for some the annotations in the bibliography below, to help you choose.
It is important not to limit your reading to those people whose ideas you agree with. Some examiners will judge your final thesis from within their own paradigm. To address their concerns you have to understand their ideology as well as your own. Presumably most of you already have some exposure to this literature from your prior study of the social sciences.
You will find Campbell and Stanley useful reading on the threats to validity you have to deal with. Cook and Campbell can then provide a valuable supplement to this. Black and Champion also provide a traditional view.
For a more recent view, try Stone If you are a bookworm, you will develop some useful background understanding by exploring some philosophy of science. Kuhn is vintage. I find him one of the most readable of philosophers. Phillips , in an eclectic, reasoned and often entertaining book, points out the weaknesses in several approaches. He also provides a summary of current views in the philosophy of science.
To prepare for the eventual thesis, look beyond the differences to the underlying issues. If you can phrase your justification of action research in terms of different trade-offs in different paradigms you may find it easier to support your research processes without appearing to criticise other approaches.
There is more on this below. Negotiate entry to the client system. As well as the general reading on action research, you will find it useful to read something on entry and contracting before you actually enter the client system.
You might choose from the following. Dougherty is a general introduction to organisation development which has a section on entry. Glidewell focuses on issue entries. In another paper in the same book Schatzman and Strauss deal with the important topic of creating relationships in consulting.
My favoured book in the area is Hermann and Korenich , despite its age. A collection of papers which focus on field research has been compiled by Shaffir and Stebbins The first of four parts is on entry. Each of the other parts gives attention to the importance of forming relationships. Obviously enough, your intention during the entry phase is to negotiate something which is mutually beneficial for you and the client system. What may be less obvious, and certainly more difficult, is to negotiate a fair amount of flexibility in what you do, and your role.
Without flexibility you sacrifice some of the advantages of the action research methodology. Create a structure for participation. It almost always increases the commitment of the client group to the changes which emerge from the research.
In some situations you may be able to involve all of those who have an interest in the situation -- the "stakeholders", as they are usually called. In other situations you may have to be satisfied with a sample. And occasionally it may only be feasible to use the stakeholders as informants, without involving them any more directly in the process.
Choosing an appropriate sample is not always easy. You may find a "maximum diversity" sample, in which you try to include as much diversity as you can, will give you better information for a given size. In random samples, especially small ones, the extreme views tend to be under-represented.
You are less likely to miss important information if you include as many views as possible. In addition, dialectic works better if there is adequate variety in the information analysed. You can often achieve a real partnership with the client group even when you have to work with a sample.
A convenient practice is to set up a steering committee with a small sample. They become directly involved with you. They can also help you to choose others as informants, and to interpret the information you get.
However, before you actually start on this, give some attention to your relationship with them, and their and your roles. Also agree on the processes you will use together. Remember to be flexible and to negotiate for ample continuing flexibility.
There is some literature on the value of participation in action research. It is often less explicit about how you would actually do it. A commendable exception is Oja and Smulyan For the most part you will have to make do with the literature mentioned in step 2, previously.
If this were a conventional piece of research you would expect to collect all the data first. Only when data collection was complete would you do your analysis. Then would follow in turn interpretation and reporting. In action research you can improve the rigour of your study substantially by combining collection, interpretation, library research, and perhaps reporting. Developing an interpretation right from the start gives you more time and more cycles to test it thoroughly.
In this respect, a single action research study bears some resemblance to a large program of conventional research. Or, to put it differently, a single cycle resembles a whole experiment. In action research each cycle is smaller because there are multiple cycles in one study. A further advantage in recording your interpretation as you proceed is that you spare yourself the mountain of data which qualitative research too often accumulates.
You need only record your interpretation and the data relevant to its confirmation and disconfirmation. Further, because of the convergent nature of the process, the more detailed information collected in the later cycles supersedes the earlier data.
Your reading can also be more targeted to your results. You will have to range widely in your reading to find the relevant papers and books. And you will find it very useful to develop some library search skills and to learn how to phrase research questions in language librarians can understand.
The result will be a literature review which is determined by relevance not by discipline or sub-discipline. During this phase, too, plans for change will be developed. This may or many not be of interest for your thesis. It is clearly relevant to practitioners, and to the clients.
Developing plans during data collection also allows those plans to be refined as the study proceeds. There are authors who discuss the difficult task of writing up qualitative research, for example Wolcott or Richardson There are many more, especially when you include those on report writing in general.
It is worth your while to read one or two. However, for thesis purposes I am going to suggest a format which allows you sufficient brevity, and capitalises on the use of dialectic during the research process.
I have discussed this elsewhere Dick, b. My argument is that building a process around dialectic leads to economy in both conduct and reporting of action research. At the same time it increases rigour. There are some general principles to keep in mind as you write the thesis. Above all, what you do is less important than how well you make a case for doing it. Secondly, it is important that you present your methods and findings in such a way that the precision of your work and the adequacy of your interpretation are at all times very evident.
I suggest therefore that where APA or other appropriate conventions are relevant you follow them. Where they are not, explain what you have done.
Any writing is easier for being adequately organised around a theme. My suggestion is that you organise your thesis around the specific contributions that your thesis makes to the body of knowledge. In doing this you may find that a "Chapter" format will serve your purposes better than the more conventional introduction-method-results-discussion-conclusion.
The structure may be: The introductory chapter sets the scene by describing the field situation and the reason for doing the study. It then provides a brief overview of the study, the methodology, and probably the conclusions. If you mention anything which might be contentious, also state where reasons will be given. A little historical context is sometimes useful, to the extent that it helps to explain why the study was done. There may be some content literature, depending on the nature of your psychological contract with the client group and the focus of the study.
Often, however, the best place for most of the content literature is in the later chapters. This will become clearer shortly. You would be well advised to explain the structure of the thesis, and your reasons for adopting this structure, very near the beginning. By the end of this chapter, aim to have identified the need for responsiveness in your research design. Your argument will then flow logically into the second chapter, on methodology.
A major chapter then outlines and justifies your approach. As discussed earlier, there is the overall action research paradigm, the particular methodology, and the specific methods used.
Each has to be described and justified. The use of qualitative methods will also have to be explained and justified as part of the discussion of the action research paradigm. In providing your justification, the frame of mind I suggest you adopt is as follows. There is nothing wrong with more traditional research methods: However, in this particular setting action research is more suitable. The effect to aim for is naturalness.
Try to convey that this is a normal and natural research paradigm with adequate rigour and a long tradition. It is suitable for some research projects which are not as amenable to being researched using other methods. In particular, it allows practitioners to achieve better research outcomes from their practice without undermining the changes their practice is intended to achieve. In presenting your justification it is often useful to write about the trade-offs involved.
For example, replicability and responsiveness are hard to achieve at one time: Conventional research sacrifices responsiveness in the interests of achieving replicability. That is what often makes it unsuitable as a change technique.
Action research values responsiveness over replicability, because otherwise it is very difficult to achieve action as part of the research. Note too that, all else being equal, responsiveness and rigour are both virtues.
In a change program you need responsiveness. If you can achieve it in ways which allow some replicability, so much the better. Aim for best-of-both-world processes when you can. A more telling trade-off is between local relevance and global relevance. It will also serve as an example of how you can support a counter-cultural approach without explicitly criticising the dominant culture.
To do this, you identify the issue on which the usual ideology depends and discuss that issue. It is then unnecessary to attack the convention methodology. The following discussion may help to clarify this. A common criticism of action research is its lack of generalisability see Heller, , sometimes called external validity.
To some extent this is true. The harder you try to find an explanation which fits a specific situation, the more likely it is to differ from what would suit a different situation. By defining the debate in terms of generalisability, however, you disguise the trade-off.
Some literature for instance Kirk and Miller, reverses the argument. Qualitative research, Kirk and Miller argue, has an ecological validity which quantitative research lacks. However, Kirk and Miller do acknowledge a trade-off between reliability and validity.
At least an issue underlying the generally-held principle is revealed. As I said a few paragraphs earlier, the trade-off can be described as one between local relevance and global relevance. You can be responsive to the local situation, and sacrifice global relevance if necessary.
Alternatively you can pursue global relevance at all costs, even at the expense of denying opportunities for local change. You explain your choice in these terms, and do what you can to compensate for the disadvantages your choice contains.
Justification is thus provided without defensiveness, and with less danger of arousing defensiveness. The best argued case in the world will avail you little if you tread on ideological toes. It seems to me that Argyris , , has presented cogent arguments against conventional research. I suspect this is because it is presented in such a challenging way that people find it easier to ignore than to address. The ideal is for the examiner to be led by your argument to the same conclusions about methodology that you reached.
One way to do this is To take a related example I suggest you resist the temptation to point out the general shortcomings of other approaches. For instance you could argue that truly-experimental research achieves generalisability by limiting its focus very severely. At best its conclusions can be applied to the world at large.
But it is able to consider so few variables at once that it is not the world of people and organisations as they exist in practice. There is another trade-off involved here. It might be described as between universality of principles and universality of application.
In one instance you can say: Yes, this is a universal or near-universal principle; it is hard to apply on its own, because it considers only a limited set of variables. In the other instance, the statement becomes: Yes, you have to treat this flexibly if you translate it into other settings. But it does consider the situation as it is, and not a small portion of the situation. The essence of this approach to justification is simple. Acknowledge the conventional view.
Explain the nature of the choice in terms of underlying principles. Present your own choice as fitting your methodology to the situation. If you have followed the research approach recommended here, there are key features which it is usually appropriate to mention.
The need for responsiveness is important. It usually provides the justification for qualitative action research. The intention to produce change, and the importance of the commitment of the participants, are good reasons for using participation. Above all, the procedures used to achieve rigour are crucial. They may include the following A word about the content literature.
This is an important part of being responsive to the situation. As you reach a tentative interpretation of your data, go to the library and search out disconfirming evidence and argument.
You can then reach your conclusions with more confidence, and any resulting action can be better informed. Most of the remaining thesis can be organised around the major findings which your study has made. You might give the most important of these a chapter each. Subsidiary findings might then be grouped together in a further chapter.
To decide what to include, you might ask yourself: What is now understood that was less well understood before? These contributions are likely to fall into one or more of the following categories If your conclusions fall into several of these categories, the logical order is probably as given above. Methodological findings also have implications for system findings, and so precede them. System findings have implications for findings about change, which therefore come last.
If there are no methodological findings you may still find it advantageous to include a chapter on the methodological problems you faced, and the implications they have for the conclusions which follow. It is important that you are critical about the shortcomings of your methodology without making too much a tale of woe out of it.
Each of the chapters on your conclusions might, as an example, have a structure something like this This final point can be problematic. As I have argued, action research often emphasises local relevance that is, responsiveness at the cost of global relevance that is, generalisation. When change is one of the intended outcomes this is a sensible trade.
However, a few examiners may not see it that way. Some people not all judge any piece of research according to the criteria and ideology of their preferred paradigm. You have to make a case according to the rules of their game, not of your own, or find a wider set of rules that let both of you appear correct.
The prior description provides the bare bones. In addition it is important to pay attention to the way in which you say what you have to say. This is partly a matter of structure, and partly a matter of the "tone of voice" in which you write. Structure applies to the thesis as a whole, to the major sections within it, and to the sentence by sentence expression.
An effective thesis flows from chapter to chapter, so that there are no unpleasant surprises for a reader. It is useful for each chapter to begin with a sentence or two which previews what is to come. The thesis as a whole is best preceded by an abstract and followed by a summary of conclusions. At the level of sentences and paragraphs, it is worth remembering that your purpose is to be understood.
This will be most effectively achieved if you use simple language in short, simple sentences. If the spell-checker on your computer gives readability scores, experiment with trying to achieve the clarity of Hemingway or the Bible. I offer this with some misgivings, as I suspect some examiners are actually impressed by material which is highly technical and difficult to read.
The tone to aim for, I think, is one of intelligent and careful reason coupled with tolerance for other approaches. Unless you are planning to upset your examiners you will not criticise conventional research methodology at all. You will not even say anything which implies criticism. Conventional research is fine as indeed it is. Quantification is excellent as indeed it is. It is just that the research situation demanded responsiveness, and action research provided that responsiveness.
In your choice of methodology and method you have built as much rigour as possible into a qualitative action research methodology. Transcript of The advantages and disadvantages of action research. What is the action research? David Hobson claims that action research gives teachers an opportunity to perceive their world more freshly by reflecting on it and thus "to render the familiar strange.
Action research as a purpose to improve educational practice Presents: Research so that they are more likely to produce resuIts consistent with those purposes. Action research may utilize any of the research methods and may involve collaboration with colleagues, clients, or professional researchers.
Hobson also recommends that teacher researchers keep a journal, a" written record 5. The reflections that occur through autobiographic narrative and journaling can help action researchers throughout the research process:. Blog 31 August Prezi at Dreamforce The proof of concept Latest posts. Creating downloadable prezi, be patient. Delete comment or cancel.
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ADVANTAGES: •Generalist and project staff •The choice of methods and techniques •The out comes of Action Research. •Study as you are implementing •Concurrent - be part of action •Produces new behaviour which helps in project growth. DISADVANTAGES: •Rarely gives .
Advantages of action research It can be done by an individual or a group It improves educational practice and helps create better professionals Educators can develop ways to improve their craft The researchers identify the problems systematically It can lead to the development of 5/5(1).
Transcript of The advantages and disadvantages of action research. 1. Action research as a purpose to. 2. Research so that they are more. 3. Action research may utilize any of the research methods and may involve collaboration with colleagues, clients, or professional researchers. 4. Hobson also recommends that teacher researchers keep a journal, a" written record. Powered by Create your own unique website with customizable templates. Get Started.
Action Research Advantages of Action Research. Possibility to gain in-depth knowledge about the problem. Disadvantages of Action Research. It is important to make a clear distinction between action research Action Research Spiral. Kemmis and McTaggart () do acknowledge that individual stages specified in Action. Oct 29, · Kurt Lewin was the social scientist responsible for giving this research paradigm the name Action Research. He believed Action Research went through a circular process. That the researcher began by “identifying a general idea” this was followed by “fact finding, planning, action, evaluating, plan second action”. However new approaches will use Action Research as a.