Action research as metamethodology: managing the complexity of an applied research project

Dick, Bob and Sankaran, Shankar and Shaw, Kelly and Kelly, Jacqueline and Soar, Jeffrey and Davies, Alan and Banbury, Annie (2014) Action research as metamethodology: managing the complexity of an applied research project. In: 14th European Academy of Management Conference (EURAM 2014): Waves and Winds of Strategic Leadership for Sustainable Competitiveness, 4-7 Jun 2014, Valencia, Spain.


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.
The aim of this paper is to describe how action research can be used as a flexible approach to collaborative project management of a research project. In the paper we outline a recent research situation, and describe the characteristics of action research as a metamethodology. We explain two features of action research that can provide flexibility within a planned process: an iterative cycle of planning, action and reflection, and the use of nested cycles that can be applied at any scale. We illustrate the use of action research as metamethodology with examples from the research project.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Paper)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published version due to publisher copyright policy.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Faculty of Business, Education, Law and Arts - School of Management and Enterprise
Date Deposited: 04 May 2015 23:44
Last Modified: 05 Jul 2017 00:05
Uncontrolled Keywords: action research; metamethodology; applied research; model
Fields of Research : 11 Medical and Health Sciences > 1199 Other Medical and Health Sciences > 119999 Medical and Health Sciences not elsewhere classified
15 Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services > 1503 Business and Management > 150303 Corporate Governance and Stakeholder Engagement
22 Philosophy and Religious Studies > 2201 Applied Ethics > 220107 Professional Ethics (incl. police and research ethics)
Socio-Economic Objective: C Society > 93 Education and Training > 9399 Other Education and Training > 939999 Education and Training not elsewhere classified
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