Action Research LO7407

Brock Vodden (
Mon, 13 May 1996 01:16:30 -0400

Replying to LO7269 --

At 10:51 AM 5/7/96 EDT, Joe Hays wrote, requesting definitions for Action

I do not have a cogent definition for the term, but have some impressions
that may be useful. A number of years ago, I got involved in a prolonged
debate on the question of whether Action Research is a legitimate approach
to research.

Action research differed from "normal scientific research" in that it did
not provide the controls demanded to ensure that the results were
pristine. AR advocates contend that the controls often create very
artifical situations which are not analagous to real life situations being

Some participants in that debate used the term "heuristic" as a synonym
for action. Advocates of AR said that in many research projects, it is
common for unexpected results to appear at any time. It is important that
the researcher be able to pursue that surprise discovery, even if this
means abandoning some of the initial goals of the project. Also, the AR
people say if you discover a problem during the study, one should be free
to attempt to correct the problem opn the spot. Purists in traditional
science say that this contaminates the data, because the area that is
being studied is being changed by the project personnel. It would be
impossibel to replicate any of the results, since the entity you began
with no longer exists.

Some AR advocates say that if the results of traditional research are so
fragile that measurements require the splitting of statistical hairs, the
work cannot be all that significant. On the other hand, an AR project
which allows immediate practical response to observed phenomena, can
create dramatic changes/improvements which are obvious and palpable.
Making the changes and improvements are seen as more important than the
purity of the methodology.

The above was in response to this:

>On Wednesday May 8th I begin teaching an accelerated course entitled
>Applied Action Research, a core course in a graduate Master of Science in
>Management program. This program is for leaders and change agents.
>(Large snip)
>ANY specific ideas or experiences you have would be most helpful. I hope
>I have provided enough background to enable your focused suggestions.


Brock Vodden Vodden Consulting Business Process Improvement "Where People and Systems Meet"

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