Action Research: Its Foundations in Open Systems Thinking and Relationship to the Scientific Method

  • John BartonEmail author
  • John Stephens
  • Tim Haslett
Original Paper


This paper considers those interpretations of action research that can be traced to Kurt Lewin at the Research Center for Group Dynamics at the University of Michigan, and the work in social ecology by Emery and Trist at the Tavistock Institute. It locates the logical basis of these interpretations in the philosophy of pragmatism, particularly as it relates to Peirce’s inferential logic and inquiry system. Drawing on this argument, and on the significant developments in approaches to systemic thinking over the past 40–50 years, a normative set of criteria is established for action research. The paper concludes that both positivist science (which relates to closed systems thinking) and action research (which relates to open systems thinking) are essential to any complete scientific approach.


Action research Open systems Scientific method Peirce Pragmatism Abduction 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.John Barton AssociatesMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.Greyhound RacingMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Linchpin ConsultingMelbourneAustralia
  4. 4.SandringhamAustralia

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