Action Research 1 – What is it?

I have worked with action research in different projects since 2002, and I have also worked in more traditional research projects. I thought that I would write a short series of blog posts describing perspectives on action research. This first blog post aims at describing what action research is and some of my experiences. The blog posts are aimed at those who would like to know a bit about action research, and who don’t know that much. Or who are just curious of what we do in our action research projects. 🙂

Action research is a kind of research where the researcher works closely together with practitioners trying to understand and improve a situation or organisation in some specific way. The researcher is not “a fly on the wall” who observes things, but takes part in the change process to a large or small extent. Action research projects can indeed vary quite a lot and the term is more an umbrella concept for a whole family of approaches.

The name action research reveals that it is both about action (change) and about research (knowledge). Action research is hence closely connected to researching change, and change processes and at the same time trying to understand them and create new or improved understandings.

There are also a large number of action research dimensions, and projects can be very strong in some of these dimensions and not so strong in others. These dimensions can be related to the level of participation, the level of change as well as the size of the project.

Also the role of the researcher can vary quite a lot throughout the action research project, which makes the work in action research projects very demanding and you need to be a competent professional.

I have experiences from action research projects in the following areas. I will describe some of the different projects more in detail in later blog posts. 

  1. Implementing ICT in organisations, in for example the launch of the New Ladok system in Sweden.
  2. Gender equality in academia through the FESTA project. Here I was a practitioner working closely together with Nina Almgren who is an experienced gender expert and researcher.
  3. Education and improvement of learning environments for the development of professional competencies.
  4. Establishment of user centred methods and perspectives in organisations (the area of my PhD) in many different public organisations.
  5. The launch of medical records online for patients in Sweden in the DOME consortium since 2012.