International Practice Development Journal


Title of ArticleAction research: genesis, evolution and orientations
Type of ArticleOriginal Practice Development and Research
Author/sAngie Titchen
ReferenceVolume 5, Issue 1, Article 1
Date of PublicationMay 2015
Keywordsaction research, definitions, evolution, modes, practice development research, purposes, research paradigms

Background: Action research is used to bring about systematic change at the same time as developing fresh understanding about the change strategy and its impact. It has been around since the 1940s in a variety of forms and for different purposes. It is increasingly used as a practice development research strategy in healthcare professions.

Aim and objectives: The aim is to provide an overview of action research to enable understanding of the flow and the cumulative, interactive nature of action research and its evolution. The objectives of the paper are practical, historical and paradigmatic in nature.

Methods: Drawing on personal and others’ development and on experience of action research, the paper is a blend of scholarly writing, practical examples and the metaphor of a tidal river estuary. The metaphor uses continuous reshaping of sandbanks to symbolise the coming together and moving apart of different streams of action research.

Exposition: The origins and evolution of action research, with its different purposes, orientations and emphases, are shown through an analysis and critique of different definitions of action research over time. With differences identified, common characteristics of action research and the creation of action hypotheses are set out, followed by the history and evolution of action research, separated into four major modes. Paradigmatic origins and assumptions of these modes are critiqued.

Conclusion and implications for practice development research: In common with all researchers, practice development researchers need to consider carefully which paradigmatic assumptions are most relevant to their questions and purposes because those assumptions will help them to locate their work in an appropriate specific or blended research paradigm. The choice of paradigm will affect everything they do and are, so the choice needs to be made from an informed and embodied position.

This article by Angie Titchen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 3.0 License.

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