Action Research

This page deals with the set of methods related to action research, which aims to address practical challenges and bring research into everyday experience and practice. Action research includes first-person practices, addressing the ability of individual researchers to foster an inquiring approach to their own lives; second-person practices such as cooperative inquiry, addressing our ability to inquire face to face with others into issues of mutual concern, usually in small groups; and third-person research practices, creating a wider community of inquiry involving persons who cannot be known to one another face to face. The content on this page discusses narrative inquiry, learning history and cooperative inquiry as major types of action research methods used in social-ecological systems (SES) research.

The Chapter summary video gives a brief introduction and summary of this group of methods, what SES problems/questions they are useful for, and key resources needed to conduct the methods. The methods video/s introduce specific methods, including their origin and broad purpose, what SES problems/questions the specific method is useful for, examples of the method in use and key resources needed. The Case Studies demonstrate the method in action in more detail, including an introduction to the context and issue, how the method was used, the outcomes of the process and the challenges of implementing the method. The labs/activities give an example of a teaching activity relating to this group of methods, including the objectives of the activity, resources needed, steps to follow and outcomes/evaluation options.

More details can be found in Chapter 15 of the Routledge Handbook of Research Methods for Social-Ecological Systems.

Chapter summary:

This video introduces the concept of Action Research.

Boulton, J. & Preiser, R. (2022)

Method Summaries

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Case Studies

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Lab teaching/ activity

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Tips and Tricks

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Key Publications related to Action Research:
  • Burns, D. 2007. Systemic Action Research: A Strategy for Whole Systems Change. Bristol: The Policy Press.
  • Marshall J.  2016. ‘Living Life as Inquiry.’ In First Person Action Research, edited by J. Marshall, 1–2. London: Sage. doi:10.4135/9781473982598.
  • McArdle,  K.  2004.  In-powering Spaces: A Co-operative Inquiry with Young Women in Management.
  • Pratt, J., P. Gordon, & D. Plamping. 2005. Working Whole Systems: Putting Theory into Practice in Organisations. Seattle: Radcliffe.
  • Reason, P. & H. Bradbury, H., eds. 2001. Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice. London: Sage.