Action Research as Metamethodology: Managing the Complexity of an applied research project

European Academy of Management
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
EURAM2014, 2014, pp. 1 - 25
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A large applied research study is a challenging exercise in project management, often unpredictable because of its complexity. At the beginning, funding bodies, ethics committees and participating organizations expect a plan of what is intended. As the research evolves, researchers must meet the expectations of stakeholders while being responsive to the emergent reality that the research faces and partly uncovers. This paper describes action research used as an umbrella process - a metamethodology - under which these contrasting demands can be satisfied. In particular, two characteristics enable action research to do so. One is its cyclic process, iteratively tracing out a rhythm of planning, acting, and observing the results. The other is the nesting of its cycles, applied at scales ranging from the overall study to the moment-by-moment facilitation. We illustrate this use of action research with examples from a lengthy applied study of leadership in faith-based not-for-profit organizations.
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