navbar 4Resource papers in action research

An action research bibliography

An annotated bibliography on action research,
including qualitative research and program


This is a resource file which supports the regular public program "areol" (action research and evaluation on line) offered twice a year beginning in mid-February and mid-July.  For details email Bob Dick  or

This includes relevant literature up to and including 1993.  For more recent books published in the past few years click here


Go to:     a b c d e f g j k l m n o p r s v w z


Altrichter, Herbert (1990) Do we need an alternative methodology for doing alternative research?  In Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt, ed., Action research for change and development.  Brisbane:  Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching, Griffith University.

Argues that the differences between traditional and alternative research have been overestimated The process of validating any study is iteself a second research study and subject to challenges to its validity


Anders, D.J.  (1966) Action research.  In S.  Kemmis and R.  McTaggart, eds., The action research reader, third ed [pp 317-321].  Victoria:  Deakin University.

A brief overview


Antaki, Charles, ed.  (1988) Analysing everyday explanation:  a casebook of methods.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

Many qualitative techniques depend upon some form of discourse analysis (the analysis of written or spoken language).  This book discusses some of the methods.


Argyris, Chris (1980) Inner contradictions of rigorous research.  New York:  Academic Press.

Some of the features of traditional empirical research are taken for granted, and their disadvantages not recognised.  Argyris argues, here and elsewhere, that traditional research has its own threats to rigour.


Argyris, Chris (1983) Action science and intervention.  Journal of Applied Behavioural Science, 19, 115-140.


Argyris, Chris, and Schon, Donald A.  (1989) Participative action research and action science compared:  a commentary.  American Behavioural Scientist, 32, 612-623.

Most social research, including most action research, the authors argue, is fundamentally flawed because the researcher cannot guarantee the validity of the information provided.  The unspoken rules which govern social interaction prevent some issues being discussed.  Action science, by creating a more open relationship between researcher and researched, and by surfacing and confronting the rules, enables valid data to be collected.


Argyris, Chris;  Putnam, Robert and Smith, Diana McLain (1985) Action science:  concepts, methods and skills for research and intervention, San Francisco, Ca.:  Jossey-Bass.

Offers a methodology for researching social systems in ways which gain more valid data while treating those researched as mature and responsible adults.  In effect it is equivalent to a form of participative action research, with particular attention given to generating more valid information.


Argyris, Chris, and Schon, Donald A.  (1996) Organizational learning II:  Theory, method and practice.  Reading:  Addison-Wesley.

In some respects this is a revision of their 1978 book Organizational learning, which related their work on interpersonal interaction more deliberately to organisational dynamics.  In addition, I think it integrates some of their earlier work.  I've also heard reports that many people find it more readable than much of Argyris.


Armstrong, J.  Scott (1985) Long-range forecasting:  from crystal ball to computer, second edition.  New York:  Wiley

A readable and informative overview of group processes and techniques, most of which can be used for purposes in addition to forecasting.  Summarises the research on many of the techniques.  Apart from that, it is worth getting for the annotated bibliography. 


Bawden, Richard (1990) Towards action research systems.  In O.  Zuber-Skerrit, ed., Action research for change and development.  Brisbane:  Centre for Advancement in Learning and Teaching, Griffith University.  [21-51]

A well-illustrated account of some of the models Bawden uses in his extensive practice of action research.  Readable, and with depth.


Beer, Michael;  and Walton, Anna Elise (1987) Organisation change and development.  Annual Review of Psychology, 38, 339-367.

An account of the difficulties of researching social systems, this especially questions the use of causal rather than systems models, the sacrifice of relevance for precision, the ignoring of the environmental context, and the tendency to ignore the needs of users.  "Change is not brought about by following a grand plan but by continually readjusting directions and goals".


Bellenger, Danny, Bernhardt, Kenneth L., and Goldstucker, Jac L.  (1976) Qualitative research in marketing.  Chicago:  American Marketing Association.

Many marketing research techniques can be pressed into service for action research generally.


Berg, Bruce L.  (1988) Qualitative research methods for the social sciences.  Hemel Hempstead, England:  Allyn & Bacon.


Brewer, John & Hunter, Albert (1989) Multimethod research:  a synthesis of styles.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

The purpose of multimethod research is to increase the rigour of research.  It is assumed that some of the systematic biasses of different methods cancel each other out.


Brown, A.  and Heller, F.  (1981) Usefulness of group feedback analysis as a research method:  its application to a questionnaire study.  Human Relations, 34, 141-156.

Group feedback analysis is in effect a small-group method for survey feedback.  It therefore lends itself to research which achieves change through working directly with small groups;  but can be used with several such groups to allow results to be collated over larger numbers.  Heller is the person who devised group feedback analysis, and has written in several papers on its use for combined research and intervention.


Brown, L.  David (1993) Social change through collective reflection with Asian nongovernmental development organisations.  Human Relations, 46(2), 249-293.

Brown identifies two action research traditions.  The "Southern" tradition focusses on empowering disenfranchised groups.  The "Northern" uses a problem solving approach in organisational change.  His paper reports the use of a mixed approach in working with NGOs.  He gives attention to values and ideology, participation, and joint enquiry.


Bryant, Fred B.;  Edwards, John;  Tindale, R.  Scott;  Posavac, Emil J.;  Heath, Linda;  Henderson, Eaaron;  and Suarez-Balcazar, Yolanda, eds.  (1992) Methodological issues in applied social psychology.  New York:  Plenum.

A collection of papers on methods, methodologies and issues in social research.  Qualitative and quantitative methods are addressed, and current developments receive attention. 


Cameron, Deborah;  Frazer, Elizabeth;  Harvey, Penelope;  Rampton, M.B.H.;  and Richardson, Kay (1992) Researching language:  issues of power and method.  London:  Routledge.

This book, written from a number of different disciplinary perspectives, focusses on the relationship between researcher and researched.  It discusses some of the ways in which the usual power difference can be minimised, with particular attention to the researching of language and the language of research.


Campbell, Donald T.  and Stanley, Julian C.  (1966) Experimental and quasi-experimental designs for research.  Chicago:  Rand McNally.

The positivist bible for field research and an important contribution to the practical literature on methodology.  Positivist research is seen as the ideal.  Research designs which fall short of true experiments are subject to various threats to validity which must be addressed in one way or another.  The approach may sell qualitative research short, but many of the issues require addressing in one way or another.


Carey, Martha Ann and Smith, Mickey W.  (1992) Enhancement of validity through qualitative approaches:  incorporating the patient's perspective.  Evaluation and the Health Professions, 15(1), 107-114.

Qualitative and participative methods are used to refine a reseach program into HIV.  A number of participative methods are described.  The authors conclude that the participative methods were of value in designing the program.


Carr, Wilfred and Kemmis, Stephen (1986) Becoming critical:  education knowledge and action research.  London:  Falmer Press.  [Available from Deakin UP]

A strongly-put case for a particular approach to research, using participative action research methods.  The form of action research advocated is cyclic, is done by those researched, and incorporates the philosophy of the Frankfurt school.  The cycle used is:  plan, act, observe, reflect.  Valuable.


Centre for the Study of Evaluation, UCLA (1987) Program evaluation kit, 2nd edition.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

Contents:  v.1 Evaluator's handbook.  - v.2 How to focus an evaluation.  - v.3 How to design a program evaluation.  v.4 How to use qualitative methods in evaluation.  - v.5 How to assess program implementation.  - v.6.  How to measure attitudes.  - v.7 How to measure performance and use tests.  - v.8 How to analyze data.  - v.9 How to communicate evaluation findings


Chalmers, Alan F.  (1982) What is this thing called science?:  an assessment of the nature and status of science and its methods, 2nd edition.  St.  Lucia, Qld.:  University of Queensland Press.

A critical but understanding discussion of current views in the philosophy of science.  This is a readable account from an author who has the capacity to review sympathetically the work of people with whom he disagrees.  He argues against a single scientific method, but claims that there are some best practices which nevertheless allow a scientific method to be defended or criticised.  There is a readable summary of the important views of philosophers Lakatos and Feyerabend.


Chalmers, Alan Francis (1990) Science and its fabrication.  Milton Keynes:  Open University Press.

An expansion and clarification of the arguments he put forward in Chalmers (1982).  He restates his position that any particular scientific methodology is to be evaluated against the aims of that form of science.  His argument is mainly about the physical sciences but appears to allow extension to the social sciences.


Chamala, Shankariah, and Mortiss, Peter D.  (1990) Working together for landcare:  group management skills and strategies, Brisbane:  Australian Academic Press.

With a strong emphasis on group processes and their facilitation, this is a practical account of methods relevant to landcare and elsewhere.


Anything by Robert Chambers is likely to be relevant, either his earlier work on Rapid Rural Appraisal or the later "Farmer first" approach:

Chambers, Robert (1981) Rapid rural appraisal:  rationale and repertoire.  Public Administration and Development, 1, 95-106.

Rapid rural appraisal is a participative and qualitative diagnostic technique used frequently in rural settings, especially agricultural extension.


Chambers, R., Pacey, A., and Thrupp, L.A., eds.  (1989) Farmer first:  farmer innovation and agricultural research.  London.  Intermediate Technology Publications.

A further development of Chambers' earlier work, practical, participative, and with applications beyond its primary markets of agricultural extension and rural development.


Checkland, Peter (1981) Systems thinking, systems practice.  Chichester:  Wiley.

An important book on a methodology for analysing and intervening in social systems.  Systems concepts are used qualitatively to understand a social system, devise more effective ways of achieving its outcomes, and planning improvement.  The first half of the book presents one of the most closely argued defenses of action research as a legitimate research paradigm.


Checkland, Peter (1992) From framework through experience to learning:  the essential nature of action research.  In C.S.  Bruce and A.M.  Russell, Transforming tomorrow today (2nd World Congr.  on Action Learning).  Brisbane:  Action Learning Action Research & Process Management Assn

In this conference paper Checkland identifies soft systems methodology as action research.  He criticises most action research for lacking an adequate, well argued methodological framework.


Checkland, Peter and Scholes, Jim (1990) Soft systems methodology in action.  Chichester:  Wiley.

An account, liberally illustrated with specific examples, of soft systems methodology.


Chisholm, Rupert F., and Elden Max (1993) Features of emerging action research.  Human Relations, 46(2), 275-298.

A follow-up to Elden and Chisholm (1993).  In summing up the conclusions drawn from articles in a special issue of Human Relations, the authors identify five main dimensions to action research:  1:  system level of client system;  2:  degree of organisation of research setting;  3:  degree of openness of research process;  4:  goals and purpose of research;  5:  role of researchers.


Clark, Alf W., ed.  (1976) Experimenting with organisational life:  the action research approach, New York:  Plenum.

Papers on action research in organisations.


Clark, Peter A.  (1972) Action research and organisational change, London:  Harper and Row.

This useful book includes, among other things, a discussion of different consulting styles and their advantages and disadvantages.


Cook, Thomas D.  and Campbell, Donald T.  (1979) Quasi-experimentation:  design and analysis issues for field settings, Chicago, Ill.:  Rand McNally.

Ways of improving the rigour of field research when "true experiments" can not be conducted.  Written from an experimental perspective, but nonetheless useful in some respects.


Cook, Thomas D.  and Shadish, W.R.  (1986) Program evaluation:  the worldly science.  Annual Review of Psychology, 37, 193-232)

A review of current issues in evaluation, and an acknowledgment that dealing with a complex and demanding reality has required the abandonment of positivist and reductionist approaches.


Cope, David E. (1981) Organisation development and action research in hospitals . Aldershot: Gower.


Cornelius, Helena, and Faire, Shoshana (1989) Everyone can win:  how to resolve conflict.  Brookvale, NSW:  Simon and Schuster.

It is worth reading this book for the material on "Mapping conflicts" alone.  The integrated and systematic approach to conflict management described here is that of the Conflict Resolution Network.  One of the most easily learned, and easily taught, packages on conflict management.  Included here because conflict management techniques can be used as qualitative research techniques when participants hold very different views.


Coulthard, Malcolm (1985) An introduction to discourse analysis, new edition.  London:  Longman

An account of ways of analysing qualitative data in the form of language.


Crabtree, Benjamin F.  and Miller, William L., eds.  (1992) Doing qualitative research.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

The papers in this book cover the stages of the research process using qualitative methods, including some case studies.  Although the emphasis is on medical research (especially primary health care), it provides a convenient and readable overview of qualitative research methods.


Craig, Dorothy (1978) Hip pocket guide to planning and evaluation.  San Diego:  University Associates.

Intended for the lay reader, this is a clear exposition of a change-oriented approach to evaluation.  Don't be put off by its age -- it's good.  In workbook format, it is readable and systematic enough to follow in step-by-step fashion if necessary.  You can use it as a general introduction to evaluation for practitioners.  The "hip pocket" of the title must refer to the price, as it certainly doesn't fit in my hip (or overcoat) pocket.


Cronbach, Lee J.;  Ambron, Sueann R.;  Dornbusch, Sanford M.;  Hess, Robert D.;  Hornik, Robert C.;  Phillips, D.C.;  Walker, Decker F.;  and Weiner, Stephen S.  (1980) Toward reform of program evaluation:  aims, methods and institutional arrangements.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

A wide-ranging account of current issues in program evaluation. 


Davies, Lynda and Ledington, Paul (1991) Information in action:  soft systems methodology.  Basingstoke, Hampshire:  Macmillan.

How to apply Checkland's soft systems methodology in practice, written by people who did their doctoral research under Checkland.  In my view it is to some extent easier to follow and more practical than Checkland's own writing.


Delbecq, A.L., Van de Ven, A.H.  and Gustafson, D.H.  (1986) Group techniques for program planning.  Middleton, Wis.:  Greenbriar.

Detailed descriptions of nominal group technique, which collects information from each person in turn in a group, and delphi, a mail technique for pooling data from a number of experts.


Dick, Bob (1990) Convergent interviewing, version 3.  Brisbane:  Interchange.

An interviewing method which uses structured process, unstructured content, and a procedure for increasing the rigour of qualitative information.


Dick, Bob (1990) Rigour without numbers:  the potential of dialectical processes as qualitative research tools.  Brisbane:  Interchange.

On the use of processes for data collection and interpretation within an action research framework.  The monograph argues that qualitative research methods need not surrender rigour, if carefully designed. 


Elden, Max, and Chisholm, Rupert F.  (1993) Emerging varieties of action research:  introduction to the special issue.  Human Relations, 46(2), 121-142)

This article forms the introduction to a special issue of the journal Human Relations devoted to action research.  The main conclusion reached is that the viability of current action research derives from its variety of design and application.  See that companion article (the conclusion to the same issue) by Chisholm and Elden (1993).


Elliott, John (1991) Action research for educational change.  Milton Keynes:  Open University Press.

Action research in educational settings.


Ely, Margot;  with Margaret Anzul, Teri Friedman, Diane Garner, and Ann McCormack Steinmetz (1991) Doing qualitative research:  circles within circles.  London:  Falmer Press.

A warm, personal account by a number of people of their approach to a number of forms of qualitative research.


Englestad, Per H., and Gustavsen, Bjorn (1993) Swedish network development for implementing national work reform strategy.  Human Relations, 46(2), 219-248.

Describes an action research project in which networks were set up to create change in more than 100 organisations. 


Fay, Brian (1987) Critical social science:  liberation and its limits.  Cambridge:  Polity Press.

A series of methodologies have been informed by the philosophy of Habermas and the Frankfurt school of philosophy, including Kemmis' critical action research and Jackson's critical systems thinking.  In this account Fay sets out the nature of critical theory.  This is a more reasoned account than Fay's earlier work, which was somewhat evangelical.


Fielding, Nigel G.  and Fielding, Jane L.  (1986) Linking data:  The articulation of qualitative and quantitative methods in social research.  Beverly Hills, Ca.:  Sage.

A well-argued and practical account of how to build triangulation into data collection in social research.  Four forms of triangulation are discussed:  different data sets (different times or samples), researchers, theories and methods.


Flood, Robert L., and Jackson, Michael C.  (1991) Creative problem solving:  total systems intervention.  Chichester:  Wiley.

Flood and Jackson are systems theorists with an interest in organisational applications.  This book describes a particular form of systems approach known as total systems intervention or TSI.  It can be regarded as a form of systems-based action research which also builds on the theories of the German "critical theorists".


Fonow, Mary M.  and Cook, Judith A.  (1991) Beyond methodology:  feminist scholarship as lived research.  Bloomington:  Indiana University Press.

A collection of papers on the philosophies and methodologies of feminist research.  Readable, and raises some key issues for consideration in all research.


Fransella, Fay, and Bannister, Don (1977) A manual for repertory grid technique.  London:  Academic Press.

A theory and method for applying personal construct theory and repertory grid in research.  Included here because it has won acceptance in academic psychology despite being counter-cultural in important respects.  It is ideographic (focusses on the individual, and on individual differences) rather than nomothetic (focussing on what are presumed to be general truths).


Fransella, Fay, and Thomas, Laurie F., eds.  (1988) Experimenting with personal construct psychology.  Proceedings of the sixth international congress held at Churchill College, Cambridge, England, Aug.  5-9, 1985.  London:  Routledge and Kegan Paul.


French, Wendell, and Bell, Cecil H.  (1990) Organisation development:  behavioural science interventions for organisational improvement, fourth edition.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ:  Prentice-Hall.

Probably the bible on organisation development.  Included here because it is set firmly within an action research framework.  It gives a good mix of history, theory and practice.


Frost, Peter J.  and Stablein, Ralph E., eds.  (1992) Doing exemplary research.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

Papers, and commentaries on those paper, which discuss social research from a number of perspectives.  Most of the papers reveal the art and the passion, as well as the science. 


Glaser, Barney G.  and Strauss, Anselm L.  (1967) The discovery of grounded theory:  strategies for qualitative research.  Chicago.:  Aldine

An important and seminal work on grounded theories (which relate more directly to practice and to the complexities of reality) and their use in qualitative research.


Goodall, H.L.  Jr.  (1984) The status of communication studies in organisational contexts:  one rhetorician's lament after a year-long odyssey.  Communication Quarterly, 32(2), 133-147.

"Traditional research methods ...tend to encourage simplistic, reductionist assumptions and explanations ...  usually at the expense of more complex interpretive possibilities" [p135]


Greene, Jennifer, and McClintock, Charles (1985) Triangulation in evaluation:  design and analysis issues.  Evaluation Review, 9(5), 523-545.

Triangulation is the use of multiple research methods simultaneously to increase rigour.  This paper reports a program evaluation which uses both qualitative interview data and quantitative questionnaire data.  It demonstrates the advantages of using both.


Greenwood, Davydd J., Whyte, William Foote, and Harkavy, Ira (1993) Participatory action research as a process and as a goal.  Human Relations, 46(2), 175-192.

The authors describe the characteristics and strengths of participatory action research, and consider three case studies:  Mondragon, Xerox, and West Philadelphia.  One of a number of articles in a special issue of Human Relations on action research.


Gregory, R. Paul (1988) Action research in the secondary school: the psychologist as change agent. London: Routledge.

The author is as an educational psychologist who here reports ten previously published studies while he acted as an external change agent in a secondary school.


Grundy, Shirley (1982) Three modes of action research.  Curriculum Perspectives, 2(3), 23-24.

The three forms Shirley Grundy describes are technical (a research-centred approach), practical (similar to process consultancy), and emancipatory (which removes the distinction between researcher and participant).


Guba, Egon G.  and Lincoln, Yvonna S.  (1989) Fourth generation evaluation.  Newbury Park, Ca.:  Sage

A detailed description and justification for an approach to evaluation which is very similar to some forms of participatory action research in its general style.


Guba, Egon G., ed.  (1990) The paradigm dialog.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

Although it is not apparent in much undergraduate psychology teaching, the positivist research paradigm is being challenged by a variety of other approaches, including in the hard sciences which academic psychology often tries to emulate.  This book of readings identifies some of the alternatives and addresses some of the issues.  The writers are, generally, anti-positivist in their approaches.


Gummesson, Evert (1991) Qualitative methods in management research.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

A wide-ranging examination of qualitative research, its philosophy and practice, with reference to management research. 


Jackson, Michael C.  (1991) Systems methodology for the management sciences.  New York:  Plenum.

Presents and critiques a number of systems-based intervention methods:  systems theory, soft systems methodology, cybernetics, critical systems, operational research, and creative problem solving.


Jick, T.D.  (1979) Mixing qualitative and quantitative methods:  triangulation in action.  Administrative Science Quarterly, 24, 602-611.

An important paper on the virtues of combining several research methods within a single study to increase rigour. 


Kemmis, Stephen;  and McTaggart, Robin, eds.  (1988) The action research planner, third edition.  Victoria:  Deakin University.

Stephen Kemmis and Robin McTaggart teach action research to educators at Deakin University.  Their approach is participative and critical.  They are also probably one of the important reasons which education is one of the more active disciplines in the use of action research in Australia.


Kirk, Jerome and Miller, Marc L.  (1986) Reliability and validity in qualitative research.  Beverly Hills, Ca.:  Sage.

A discussion of the issues of reliability and validity as they apply in qualitative research.  Advances the argument that qualitative research often achieves greater validity (especially ecological validity) at the cost of reduced reliability.  A highly recommended overview of rigour in qualitative research methods


Krater, Joan; Zeni, Jane; Cason, Nancy; and Webster Groves Action Research Team (1994)  Mirror images: teaching writing in black and white. New York: Heinemann.


Kress, George (1988) Marketing research (third edition).  Prentice-Hall, London.

This book describes various techniques used in marketing research to collect and analyse data.  Many of the techniques can be used for other qualitative research purposes.


Kuhn, T.S.  (1970) The structure of scientific revolutions, 2nd edition.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.

A seminal work.  Scientific method proceeds by way of "paradigms", sets of beliefs about science which hold sway for a while, and then are swept away by a subsequent paradigm. 


Lakatos, Imre;  and Musgrave, A., eds.  (1972) Criticism and the growth of knowledge, London:  Cambridge University Press.

Scientific ideologies consist of a foundation, which will be defended vigorously, and peripheral beliefs which can be changed in the light of disconfirming evidence.  The foundation beliefs are often not testable.


Lave, Charles A., and March, James G.  (1975) An introduction to models in the social sciences.  New York:  Harper & Row.

If you are interested in marrying conceptual and empirical analysis, this book is worth reading.


Lawler, Edward E., III;  Mohrman, A.M.  Jr.;  Mohrman, S.A.;  Ledford, G.E.  Jr.;  and Cummings, T.G., eds.  (1985) Doing research that is useful for theory and practice.  San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

Some of the leading qualitative researchers in North America identify the issues and compare notes on their experience.  Underlying many of the papers is a concern that many of the research methods that are required in the field have still to establish their legitimacy in the eyes of mainstream research.


Ledford, Gerald E., Jr., and Mohrman, Susan Albers (1993) Self-design for high involvement:  a large-scale organisational change.  Human Relations, 46(2), 143-173.

This article reports a large-scale long-term action research project focussed on organisational learning in a large multi-site organisation.


Levin, Morten (1993) Creating networks for rural economic development in Norway.  Human Relations, 46(2), 193-218.

Action research applied to regional economic development in Norway.


Lewin, Kurt (1946) Action research and minority problems.  Journal of Social Issues, 2, 34-46.

Kurt Lewin is the person often credited with the development of action research as a participative, cyclic research approach directed towards both research and action.


Lofland, John and Lofland, Lyn H.  (1984) Analysing social settings:  a guide to qualitative observation and analysis, 2nd edition.  Wadsworth, Belmont, Ca.

Probably the most widely known and used introductory text on qualitative research approaches using participant observation. 


Manning, Kathleen (1992) A rationale for using qualitative research in student affairs.  Journal of College Student Development, 33(2), 132-136.

Qualitative methods are used to research student affairs.  The paper discusses reasons for using qualitative methods, and addresses some issues of concern.  It concludes that qualitative research methodology reflects and parallels the complexity and richness of the field studied.


Marshall, Catherine, and Rossman, Gretchen B.  (1989) Designing qualitative research.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

An introductory overview, sufficiently detailed for use as a guide during the design of research.


McCracken, Grant (1988) The long interview.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

In depth interviewing is a common initial data-collection technique in qualitative research, and in field research and intervention generally.  This discusses how, and also relates it to issues in qualitative research generally.  It is worth reading both for its discussion of the long interview, and for the overview it provides of key issues in qualitative research.


McTaggart, Robin (1991) Action research:  a short modern history.  Geelong, Vic:  Deakin University.

This is more a history of action research in education, which is McTaggart's field, than a more general history of action research.  It provides history and critical analysis from a critical action research perspective.  It does so in a way which surfaces and examines some of the issues facing non-mainstream research, and some of the issues which action research addresses.


Miles, Matthew B.  and A.  Michael Huberman (1984) Qualitative data analysis:  a sourcebook of new methods.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

A convenient handbook which gathers together in one place a number of methods for qualitative data analysis.  The descriptions are detailed and practical.


Morgan, David L.  (1988) Focus groups as qualitative research.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

Focus groups (= focussed group interviews) are a regular tool for market research.  They are one of a series of techniques which can begin in open-ended fashion and the become more focussed as they progress.  They can be used for qualitative research generally, as this practical account demonstrates.  In some respects they combine some of the advantages of interviewing in focussing the discussion, while collecting information in a social situation rather than from an individual informant. 


Noblit, George W.  and Hare, R.  Dwight (1988) Meta-ethnography:  synthesizing qualitative studies.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

Describes a number of ways in which different qualitative studies can be combined or contrasted, thus providing what amounts to a sort of qualitative meta-analysis.  Material on building theories out of ethnographic data, and developing criteria for evaluating studies, is included. 


Oja, Sharon Nodie and Smulyan, Lisa (1989) Collaborative action research:  a developmental approach.  London:  Falmer Press.

Deals with methods and techniques for collaboration in action research.  It provides more attention to ways of involving stakeholders than many books in the field. 


Patching, David (1990) Practical soft systems analysis.  London:  Pitman.

Written more from a practitioner than academic viewpoint, this is a step-by-step account of each of the 7 stages of Checkland's model, and some hints which appear to be based on experience in the field.  Some other systems models are also described.  If you were going to carry out a soft systems analysis without knowing much about it, this would provide you with an easy-to-follow guide.


Patton, Michael Q.  (1990) Qualitative evaluation and research methods, second edition.  Newbury Park, Ca.:  Sage.

An entertaining and practical account of qualitative research methods in general, and qualitative evaluation in particular.  Although somewhat polemical in tone, the book nevertheless presents a compelling defence of the use of qualitative data in some circumstances.  (The previous edition was called Qualitative evaluation.)


Phillips, Denis C.  (1987) Philosophy, science, and social inquiry:  contemporary methodological controversies in social science and related applied fields of research.  Oxford:  Pergamon Press.

Taking into account the work of recent leading philosophers, this book canvasses the issues which are being addressed when the scientific status of social research is debated.  The views of Feyerabend and Lakatos are considered, as well as Winch, Kuhn and Popper.


Phillips, Denis C.  (1992) The social scientist's bestiary:  a guide to fabled threats to, and defences of, naturalistic social science.  Oxford:  Pergamon.

A critical and carefully argued examination of hermeneutics, qualitative research, and other current isms in science.  A balanced examination, mostly readable and almost always interesting, from a writer who on balance is somewhat conservative in his views.


Phillips, Derek L.  (1971) Knowledge from what?:  theories and methods in social research.  Chicago:  Rand McNally.

A critique, sometimes savage, of the methods typically used in social research, including surveys and interviews. 


Reason, Peter, ed.  (1988) Human inquiry in action:  developments in new paradigm research.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

Papers on a variety of collaborative research methods.  Between them they identify the issues, discuss some of the problems, and provide examples of participative research.


Reason, Peter, and Rowan, John, eds. (1981) Human inquiry: a sourcebook of new paradigm research. New York: Wiley.


Richardson, Laurel (1990) Writing strategies:  reaching diverse audiences.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

How to write up qualitative reports.


Robinson, Viviane (1993) Problem-based methodology:  research for the improvement of practice.  Oxford:  Pergamon Press.

Robinson's variation of Argyris' action science is here applied with understanding to school development.  Later chapters explain her choice of action science to guide her intervention.  Clear and readable, and in some respects a clearer exposition of some of Argyris' processes then he himself provides.


Rutman, L.  (ed.) (1984) Evaluation research methods:  a basic guide, second edition.  Beverly Hills:  Sage.

A collection of papers on evaluation methods. 


Sackman, Harold (1975) Delphi critique:  expert opinion, forecasting and group process.  Lexington, Mass.:  Heath

A brief, well-documented, highly-critical review of a group decision making method which has promise for qualitative research.  This book also had the unfortunate effect that it killed Delphi as a method for decades.  It is only now that Delphi is beginning to be used once again.


Schein, Edgar H.  (1988) Process consultation:  its role in organisation development, Volume 1, Second edition, Reading, Mass.:  Addison-Wesley.

A highly recommended account of the process-consultation approach to change, this clear and readable account integrates a lot of complex material in understandable and applicable form.  It addresses the dimensions of action research -- those to do with producing action -- that are often neglected in the action research literature itself.


Scholtes, Peter R.  and other contributors (1988) The team handbook:  how to use teams to improve quality.  Madison, Wis.:  Joiner Associates, PO Box 5445, Madison WI 53705-0445)

A very team- and people-oriented account, also very readable, of techniques for total quality management or TQM.  One of the best books of its kind, it has wider application.  Included because TQM has many similarities to action research in its cyclic approach, empirical focus, and the use of continuous improvement as a central theme.


Schon, Donald A.  (1983) The reflective practitioner:  how professionals think in action.  New York:  Basic Books.

Reflection as a key to learning.  See next entry.  Included because critical reflection is a crucial component of most formulations of action research.


Schon, Donald A.  (1987) Educating the reflective practitioner:  towards a new design for teaching and learning in the professions, San Francisco:  Jossey-Bass.

How do practitioners best learn?  Through reflection, Schon argues on the basis of much experience.  This is valuable reading for any professional, or anyone involved in educating other professionals.  Its readability is a bonus.


Scriven, Michael (1991) Evaluation thesaurus, fourth edition.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

If you want to know just about anything about evaluation you can probably find it somewhere here.  It is written encyclopedia style, with a long series of alphabetical entries.  It contains introductory and more advanced material, and much of it is interesting and readable despite the format.


Sechrest, Lee and Figueredo, A.J.  (1993) Program evaluation.  In L.W.  Porter and M.R.  Rosenzweig, eds., Annual Review of Psychology, vol 44.  Palo Alto:  Annual Reviews Inc.  [645-674]

This review of program evaluation attributes many of the current changes in evaluation methodology to the pressures of social change.  It lists five fundamental issues in program evaluation:  how programs develop;  how researchers learn about social science;  how programs can be valued;  how social science knowledge is used;  and the practice of evaluation.


Senge, Peter M.  (1990) The fifth discipline:  the art and practice of the learning organisation.  New York:  Doubleday.

A beautiful application of systems concepts to explain why social systems are so hard to change and why they develop their peculiar dynamics.  Uses systems concepts to develop an explanation of organisational dynamics based on nests of self-fulfilling prophecies.  Organisational in orientation, but with wider application.


Shadish, William R., Jr., Cook, Thomas D., and Leviton, Laura C.  (1991) Foundations of program evaluation:  theories of practice.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

Within a broader discussion this book presents the views of some of the key theorists in the field of program evaluation.  Included are Michael Scriven, Donald Campbell, Carol Weiss, Joseph Wholey, Robert Stake, Lee Cronbach, and Peter Rossi.


Shaffir, William B.  and Stebbins, Robert A.  (1991) Experiencing fieldwork:  an inside view of qualitative research.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

A collection of papers, mostly interesting and information, on fieldwork.  They are grouped under the four phases of getting in, learning the ropes, maintaining relationships, and leaving and staying in touch.  In most instances the assumption seems to be that ethnographic methods will be used:  that is, that writing-up occurs after the data collection is over.  Allowing for that, it is a practical collection which does not overlook the importance of the relationships formed.


Stainback, Susan, and Stainback, William (1988) Understanding and conducting qualitative research.  Reston, Va.:  Council for Exceptional Children.

An introduction to qualitative research, fairly systematic in its approach.


Steckler, Allan, et.  al (1992) Toward integrating qualitative and quantitative methods:  an introduction.  Health Education Quarterly, 19(1), 1-8.

Compares qualitative and quantitative approaches, identifies their strengths, and discusses several ways of integrating them.


Steier, Frederick, ed.  (1991) Research and reflexivity.  London:  Sage

There is a body of opinion in social research that knowledge is a social construction.  Researchers therefore are partners with their informants in discovering what they discover.  It follows, then, that the researcher and her/his research process require investigation as part of the study.  This collection of papers explores reflexivity, mostly from a practical and methodological viewpoint.


Stewart, Valerie and Stewart, Andrew, with Fonda, Nickie (1981) Business applications of repertory grid.  London:  McGraw-Hill.

A description of applications of personal construct theory and repertory grid methodology in corporate settings.


Stone, Eugene F.  (1986) Research methods in industrial and organisational psychology:  selected issues and trends.  In C.L.  Cooper and I.T.  Robertson, International review of industrial and organisational psychology 1986.  New York:  Wiley.

A strong advocate of quantitative and experimental approaches to research in industrial and organisational psychology.  Included to provide a glimpse of the views of those who are inimical to action research.


Strauss, Anselm (1987) Qualitative analysis for social scientists.  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

How to analyse and interpret qualitative data.


Strauss, Anselm, and Corbin, Juliet (1990) Basics of qualitative research:  grounded theory procedures and techniques.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

This books presents a reasonably detailed description of a particular approach to data collection.  It particularly emphasises interpretation and theory building.  Grounded theory is theory closely related to field data:  without using their particular method, you may find that the issues you discuss have relevance to your own research.


Susman, G., and Evered, R.  (1978) An assessment of the scientific merit of action research.  Administrative Science Quarterly, 23(4), 582-603.

Argues for the legitimacy of action research as science by locating its philosophical bases in praxis (e.g.  Habermas), hermeneutics (i.e.  alternating between whole and parts in a dialectic process), existentialism (choice and values as part of action), process philosophies, and phenomenology (subjective experience as the basis of knowledge). 


Van Maanen, John, ed.  (1983) Qualitative methodology.  Beverly Hills, Ca.:  Sage.

A collection of papers, updated from a special edition of Administrative Science Quarterly, on different aspects and applications of qualitative methods.  Almost all are readable;  some present a carefully-argued case for using their particular form of qualitative methodologies.  Van Maanen's final epilogue is well worth reading.


Van Maanen, John;  Manning, Peter K.;  and Miller, Marc L.  (1986-) Qualitative research methods series.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

This is an extremely valuable series of monographs on qualitative research.  Those that I have read combine attention to practicability with theoretical soundness and readability.  For example, see Fielding and Fielding (1986), Kirk and Miller (1986), McCracken (1988), Richardson (1990), Weller and Romney (1988), and Wolcott (1990). 


Wadsworth, Yoland (1984) Do it yourself social research.  Melbourne:  Victorian Council of Social Service and Melbourne Family Care Association.

An easy-to-read account written primarily for lay researchers.


Wadsworth, Yoland (1991) Everyday evaluation on the run.  Melbourne:  Action Research Issues Assn.  Inc.

A very practical account which says a lot in few pages.


Walker, Robert, ed.  (1985) Applied qualitative research.  Gower, Aldershot.

As well as presenting some general principles of qualitative research, this collection of papers describes some particular techniques.  Those addressed include depth interviews, group interviews, participant observation, and projective techniques in market research.  There is a final paper on evaluation qualitative research.


Watkins, Karen E., and Marsick, Victoria J. (1993) Sculpting the learning organisation: lessons in the art and science of systemic change. San Francisco, Ca.: Jossey-Bass.


Watson, Richard B.  (1992) The nature and construction of conceptual models in soft systems methodology.  In C.S.  Bruce and A.M.  Russell, Transforming tomorrow today (2nd World Congr.  on Action Learning).  Brisbane:  ALARPMA.  [423-426]

Soft systems methodology requires developing an ideal model to achieve the same functions that the studied systems intends to achieve.  This is, in my view, the least robust stage in Checklands process.  This paper offers some guidelines on how to go about it.


Weller, Susan C.  & Romney, A.  Kimball (1988) Systematic data collection.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

This document sits on the border between qualitative and quantitative research.  That is, it is directed primarily to techniques which can be used to collect qualitative data and then categorise and interpret it, typically as frequencies.


Whyte, William Foote (1991) Participatory action research.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

A collections of papers, some of them case studies, of research conducted using participatory action research.  A complete section deals with research in agriculture.


Whyte, William Foote (1991) Social theory for action:  how individuals and organisations learn to change.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

An account of an action research approach to the management of change, from one of the leading writers in the field.  The emphasis is on participative action research in agricultural and organisational settings, using methods which integrate theory and practice.


Winter, Richard (1989) Learning from experience:  principles and practice in action research.  London:  Falmer Press.

Discusses the principles of action research, and then presents some examples to illustrate the approach.  The main focus is on educational research, but the issues addresses have wider relevance.


Wolcott, Harry F.  (1990) Writing up qualitative research.  Newbury Park:  Sage.

This is a well-crafted account of how to go about writing up qualitative research reports, including theses.  It is full of practical hints and encouragement while recognising that good writing is usually the result of careful rewriting and rewriting and rewriting.  Much good research is spoiled by being poorly written:  this offers some ways of doing justice to the research. 


Zuber-Skerritt, Ortrun, ed.  (1991) Action research for change and development.  Aldershot:  Gower.




Copyright (c) Bob Dick 1993-2002.  This document may be copied if it is not included in documents sold at a profit, and this and the following notice are included.

This document can be cited as follows:

Dick, B.  (2002) Action research bibliography [On line].  Available at


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