Chapter 3: Action research - double the outcome
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Undertaking “research” when faced with an organisational problem would seem to be delaying or avoiding the problem, unless the problem involved people, and the “research” chosen was action research. “Action research” is both a type of research and the title of a family of similar methodologies. Its primary outcome is change, but it also produces new knowledge. The methodologies in the family have many characteristics in common. These characteristics include cycles of planning, action, observation and review, undertaken by those directly involved in the change. Action researchers have successfully undertaken action research projects in almost all industries in a very broad range of circumstances. These circumstances can range from a small community group or organisation to relationships across international borders. The successes arise from action research projects because most change involves people, and people are more willing to accept change if they are involved in the change. Action research engages people in collaboration and communication about the process of change. The collaboration extends to the inclusion of the researcher, who becomes another participant, rather than an independent observer. The collaboration and communication includes all participants collecting and analysing data, including their own and others’ observations. This approach increases the rigour of the research. Used in appropriate change situations, action research is a highly effective method to achieve the broad outcomes sought by organisations, governments and communities. It appears to be more effective than most other change methodologies in social settings. All research methodologies have their own limitations. Action research can be time consuming and resource intensive, as it involves communicating with many people. Gaining all participants active involvement is important to successful outcomes, and reduced participation can slow the project as the researchers try to gain full participation. The outcomes of an action research project are about the specific phenomenon under review. Transferability and generalisation of outcomes requires consideration of, and support from, similar action research projects. Fortunately, a range of journals and conferences around the world contain a growing number of papers on action research projects that new researchers can use to reference against their research. Action research creates interest and excitement in the people who lead the projects. Their enthusiasm when talking about their projects is obvious. They are often happy to help and guide new participants in the action research community. Readers are encouraged to source the journals, conferences, networks and fellow action researchers to increase their knowledge of the use, benefits and types of action research.

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