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Book Overview

Welcome to the Fifth Edition of this text! Our sincere hope is that you find within these pages the ideas and practices that will enhance your professional life and enable you to more effectively serve the people with whom you work. We come to the task conscious that we live in an era that, while challenging, provides the potential to engage a changing world that seeks the reassurance of processes that provide more equitable and effective professional practices.


In this text we seek to engage the dynamics that define the 21st century, where alienation between people is becoming increasingly evident, where inequity between the rich and the poor continues to expand, and where grave social issues are ignored in the interest of wealthy and powerful groups and individuals. In this edition we therefore present professional practitioners and community members in all spheres of life with a set of practices and processes that engage truly human and ethical procedures that instill life and energy into their work. We believe the following features of this text provide the means to accomplish these worthy aims:


  • Research that engages diverse groups of people in collaborative processes that produce practical, effective, and sustainable outcomes to real-world problems they experience in their work, community, organizational, or institutional lives

  • Practice frameworks that clarify the step-by-step procedures presented in the text Contemporary theory that builds on past knowledge to assist readers to understand the complex dynamics now evident in social life at all levels—organizational, local, state, national, and international

  • An integration of research processes with social and digital media that have become a central feature of modern life

  • A clear description of the developmental processes needed to support social change

Below we provide a brief intro to each book section and chapter. We hope you find the book meaningful to your lives and work!

Section I

An Introduction to Action Research

This section introduces action research as an action-oriented, systematic approach to investigation and reflective practice that enables people to find effective solutions to problems they confront in their everyday lives. Also provides a general orientation to the first two chapters, which are focused on framing AR conceptually.

Chapter 1

Understanding Action Research

Introduces readers to action research, including the principles that provide the foundation for our particular orientation to the field, and examples drawn from a wide range of contexts where it has been applied. In the process it introduces the "Look, Think, Act" framework that guides data gathering, analysis, and action.

Chapter 2

Theoretical Foundations of Action Research

Explores the philosophical and theoretical foundations of action research to assist readers to understand how the application of practically grounded research procedures distinguishes it from other approaches to investigation and practical action.

Section II

Action Research Practices and Processes

This Section Introduces chapters 3-6, which provide detailed procedures and practices that provide the means to overcome the restrictions inherent in traditional approaches to research and practice by engaging the real-world environments in ways that make a difference in people’s lives. This can help professional practitioners and researchers leverage revealing
insights into the personal, experiential, historical, and culturally embedded understandings embodied in the lived experience of those who inhabit the settings investigated.

Chapter 3

Setting the Stage

Describes detailed procedures for initiating a research project, as research facilitators entering the field to identify stakeholding participants who will assist in defining and refining the problem to be addressed, the people who need to be included, the issues that need to be addressed, and the procedures to be used.

Chapter 4

Look: Generating and Gathering Data

Guides readers through two stages of inquiry: 1) Establishing the focus of the action research;  and 2) Extending and increasing the depth of understanding emerging from the investigations. It focuses on the how, describing interview processes and myriad other methods that engage diverse stakeholder ways of knowing and thereby enable issues, events, and phenomena to be framed and deeply explored in terms that are meaningful to key stakeholders

Chapter 5

Think: Reflecting and Analyzing

Focuses on data analysis that enables research participants to “make sense” of what might become large and puzzling amounts of data. It provides approaches that enable people to “distill” the information, culling peripherally relevant material and identifying significantly relevant or informative elements that provide the basis for effective action and learning

Chapter 6

Act: Implementing Practical Solutions

Speaks to the fundamental distinguishing feature of action research. Traditional approaches to research end with a report on the findings of the investigation, with recommendations for steps to be considered to resolve the issue investigated. This chapter suggests how knowledge emerging from the action research process provides the basis for taking practical and effective action to address the issues and problems that were the focus of investigation.

Section III

From Local to Global—Action Research for Social Change

This section is intended to enrich and extend the capacities of experienced researchers. It first provides an extended discussion of the complex issues now facing the global community, recognizing the need to reframe the work of the university to counter the impact of the disturbing ideologies increasingly evident in many parts of the world. It introduces strategic developmental processes through which action research might provide a “politics of hope” that counter the impact of socially divisive knowledge production.

Chapter 7

Reporting: Informing Stakeholders and Other Audiences

Describes formal and informal procedures using traditional reporting processes and creative multimedia presentations for disseminating research information, not just to academic and professional communities but to the populace at large. Research information, we suggest, can no longer be considered only the purview of elite audiences.

Chapter 8

Developmental Approaches to Social and Organizational Change

Responds to the common mantra “Think locally, act globally” by framing action research to increase the potential of small-scale projects to contribute to organizational and social change. It does so by presenting strategic developmental processes, moving from personal reflection to macro processes of organizational change that are the basis for institutional change.

Chapter 9

Action Research and Digital Media

With digital and social media so rapidly becoming a dominant force in public and private life, we provide detailed descriptions of practical ways these technologies can be used to enhance the power and reach of action research. The chapter presents a rich array of digital media resources to increase the capacity of action research participants to share information, coordinate their efforts, and extend the reach and power of their work.

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