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According to Wikipedia, action research is a reflective process of progressive problem solving led by individuals working with others in teams or as part of a "community of practice" to improve the way they address issues and solve problems.
Features of action research
Based on the work of Hult and Lennung (1980), several important features of action research can be identified:
- The goal of action research is typically increased understanding of a social process, system or situation.
- Action research is both 1) practical (it assists in problem solving in the context of the social system that is studied), and 2) seeks to expand abstract scientific knowledge, possibly by allowing the development of useful generalizations and systems theories based on results from study of specific social problems.
- Action research promotes collaboration between researchers and the subjects of the research.
- Action research is particularly useful for learning about how change takes place in social systems.
In the context of Wikiversity, participation in action research projects can help participants learn how to perform research while at the same time striving to improve practices within the wiki community that is studied.
Steps in action research
Baskerville (1999) and others have identified steps in action research:
- Identification and documentation of an existing problem in a social system.
- Development of plans for how to change the social system with the goal of correcting the identified problem.
- Action is taken in an attempt to implement the planned changes.
- Evaluation of results. Did the planned actions solve the problem?
- Documentation of what was learned from the action research.
Human subjects review
Mary Brydon-Miller and Davydd Greenwood tried to make a distinction between the activities of participants who are engaged in action research and the process by which a professional researcher might transform community activities into research for presentation or publication. Only the later would require IRB oversight.
"Actions or interventions, developed in collaboration with community members, whether this is the gathering of student portfolios or the training of community mental health workers to assist victims of state-sponsored violence, do not in and of themselves constitute research and so should not require IRB approval." (on p-126 of "A re-examination of the relationship between action research and human subjects review processes" by Mary Brydon-Miller and Davydd Greenwood (2006) Action Research 4; 117)
- Study of past editing at the Rosalind Picard Wikipedia article led to suggestions for how to change policy for biographies of living persons. The project was involuntarily terminated with extreme prejudice before it could be completed by those crafting it.
- The Ethical Breaching Experiments project was an attempt to study past "breaching experiments" and find a new one that "causes no harm in its execution, whilst yielding results useful for the greater good, or which inspire positive change". The project was deleted by Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales.
- "A re-examination of the relationship between action research and human subjects review processes" by Mary Brydon-Miller and Davydd J. Greenwood Action Research, Vol. 4, No. 1, 117-128 (2006)
- INVESTIGATING INFORMATION SYSTEMS WITH ACTION RESEARCH by Richard L. Baskerville in Communications of the Association for Information Systems (1999) Volume 2, Issue 3es, Article No. 4
- "Towards A Definition of Action Research: A Note and Bibliography" by Margareta Hult and Sven-Åke Lennung (1980), Journal of Management Studies, Volume 17, pages 241-250.
- Teacher Action Research: Building Knowledge Democracies by Gerald J. Pine (2008), Sage Publications.