24   Varieties of action research (1)


Speaking only for myself ...

 (Let me begin by saying that these occasional pieces are intended to be a starting point for discussion.)


 Over the next several months I would like to explore some of the many varieties of action research and related methodologies.  There are quite a few, and they seem to be multiplying.

Here, to set the scene as it were, I'd like to explore some of the features that most of them share.

For present purposes I'll speak of six such characteristics.  Most of the varieties are ...

  • change oriented; they intend to bring about some change in the person, or in a social system such as a community or organisation
  • related to the first, action oriented; the change is intended to be the result of action
  • in some sense of the term, data-based; the decisions about action are informed by information which is usually collected for that purpose
  • emergent; they take shape slowly as they respond to the situation in which they are located and the information they collect
  • cyclic; action is preceded by planning and followed by evaluation or review; further, most of them consist of cycles within cycles (within cycles...)
  • participative; those who are affected by the intended change are most often involved in deciding which actions are to be taken.

My intention in this occasional piece is to offer two suggestions about how we might use these differences and these characteristics.

First, how might we think about these characteristics? I think it is most useful if we think of them not as obligatory, but as design choices.

It is my belief that sometimes it is true that some variety of action research best suits a given situation.  And sometimes some quite different methodology is more likely to be appropriate.

Second, how might we view the many varieties? Here I prefer not to regard them as recipes to be followed.  Rather, I think of them as examples the design choices may be made, and put into action.

I suspect that in the best of all possible worlds we wouldn't require these varieties.  We would sufficiently understand what we were doing that we would design each approach from scratch, as it were, in response to the situation.




Copyright Bob Dick 1999-2000.  May be copied if it is not included in any
material sold at a profit, and if this and the following notice is shown

This may be cited as:   Bob Dick (1999)  Varieties of action research (1).
Occasional pieces in action research methodology, # 24.  Available online at

Version 1.2;  last modified 20000101


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