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Action research (AR) refers to the combined generation of theory and social systems change through the participation of a researcher in the social system. The term as used in this definition was first introduced in 1946 by Kurt Lewis (Elden, 1993). The proponents of this approach argue that the relevance of research should be felt by scholars as well as practitioners. Scholars find research relevant in their pursuit for the advancement of current knowledge and practitioners whose duty is to deal with the system’s problems day to day (Hall and Hammond, 2004). It has been also argued that action research’s main objective should be the production of theories towards desirable states in the future (Reason & Bradbury, 2001).
Action researchers should also aim at equipping people faced with certain problems with the competence to help themselves. This means that the output of the research should stem from being involved with an organisation’s members in a matter that genuinely concerns them.
A common misconception is that projects in management consultancy are Action Research (Heron et al., 2001). This is wrong since most of them lack in some basic principles. If these principles were to be included in the planning and implementation of these projects, then they would qualify as Action Research. AR in practice actually solves the challenges of both research and consultancy but not the other way round. AR incorporates input from researchers as well as from the practitioners and it is then an important tool for a research aimed at the understanding of formulation and implementation of strategic plans (Lomax, 2000).
One of the strengths of AR is that it does not pretend to come up with laws which have universal application but gives case specific insights (Ladkin, 2004). It is also advantageous in that it has the characteristics of both a problem solution approach as well as a process in problem solving emerging from its specific sequence of events and its model (Heron et al., 2001).
- The process aspect of AR – AR systematically assembles data aimed at some target or need of a system as a going concern.
- The approach aspect – AR applies scientific methods like experiments and fact-finding to practical problems. It also collaborates with scientists and practitioners in producing action solutions.
Ladkin (2004) says that it is however important to distinguish between Action science and AR. Action science is a version of AR that is evolutionary; this means that it introduces the building of theories into AR. This characteristic of Action science gives it the ability to create knowledge as well as offer practical solutions.
This is a normative form of research design which normally is made up of case studies (Mason, 1996). It employs limited research tools and terminates in innovative solutions that are grounded in theory. The tool is mostly used when a need for theory grounded and innovative solution exists and when one is more concerned with the way things should be carried out towards accomplishment of a certain goal and not where one seeks to find out the status quo. Mason, (1996) explains that it draws its advantage from its ease of application, its practicability in relevance and utility, its link to theory and novelty therein and its adaptability in different environments.
This form of research is more focused on the field and case studies and deals with progressive concerns. Coghl.............
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