A Critical Perspective on Action Research as a Method for Information Systems Research

  • Richard L. Baskerville
  • A. Trevor Wood-Harper

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to review critically the origins, techniques and roles associated with a growing information systems (IS) research method known as ‘action research’. This method is widely cited as an exemplar of a post-positivist social scientific research method, ideally suited to the study of technology in its human context. We seek to illuminate both the attractions and the detractions that this method holds for IS researchers.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Alavi, M., Carlson, P. and Brook, G. (1989) The ecology of MIS research: a twenty-year status review, in Proceedings of the Tenth International Conference on Information Systems, Boston, 4–6 December Baltimore: ACM Press, pp. 363–71.Google Scholar
  2. Argyris, C. and Schôn, D. (1978) Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective (Addison-Wesley, Reading).Google Scholar
  3. Argyris, C. Putnam, R. and Smith, D. (1985) Action Science (Jossey-Bass, San Fransisco, CA).Google Scholar
  4. Banville, C. and Landry, M. (1989) Can the field of MIS be disciplined? Communications of the ACM, 32, 48–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Baroudi, J. and Orlikowski, W. (1989) The problem of statistical power in MIS research, MIS Quarterly, 13, 87–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Baskerville, R. (1991) Philosophical bias of methods and tools, Information Systems Research Arena of the 90s, Nissen, H.E., Klein, H. and Hirschheim, R. (eds).Google Scholar
  7. Benbasat, I., Goldstein, D. and Mead, M. (1987) The case research strategy in studies of information systems, MIS Quarterly 11(3), 368–86.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Blackler, F. (1988) Information technologies and organizations: lessons from the 1980s and issues for the 1990s, Journal of Occupational Psychology, 61, 113–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Blum, F. (1955) Action research — a scientific approach? Philosophy of Science, 22, 1–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Checkland, P. (1981) Systems Thinking, Systems Practice (J. Wiley, Chichester).Google Scholar
  11. Checkland, P. (1985) From optimizing to learning: a development of systems thinking for the 1990s, Journal of the Operational Research Society, 36(9), 757–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Checkland, P. (1991) From framework through experience to learning: the essential nature of action research, in Information Systems Research: Contemporary Approaches and Emergent Traditions (Nissen, H.E., Klein, H.K. and Hirschheim, R. (eds) North-Holland, Amsterdam) pp. 397–403.Google Scholar
  13. Checkland, P. and Scholes, J. (1990) Soft Systems Methodology in Practice, (J. Wiley, Chichester).Google Scholar
  14. Clark, A. (1972) Action Research and Organizational Change (Harper and Row, London).Google Scholar
  15. Cooper, R. (1988) Review of management information systems research: a management support emphasis, Information Processing and Management, 24(1), 73–102.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Galliers, R. and Land, F. (1987) Choosing appropriate information systems research methodologies, Communications of the ACM, 30, 900–2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Glaser, B.G. and Straus, A.L. (1967) The Discovery of Grounded Theory, Strategies for Qualitative Research (Aldine, Chicago).Google Scholar
  18. Gummesson, E. (1988) Qualitative Methods in Management Research (Chartwell Bratt, Bickley, Bromley).Google Scholar
  19. Hirschheim, R. (1985) Information systems epistemology: an historical perspective, in Research Methods In Information Systems, (Mumford, E., Hurshheim, R., Fitzgerald, G. and Wood Harper, T. (eds) North-Holland, Amsterdam).Google Scholar
  20. Hult, M. and Lennung, S.-Å. (1980) Towards a definition of action research: a note and bibliography, Journal of Management Studies 17, 241–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Israel, B., Schurman, S. and House, J. (1989) Action research on occupational stress: involving workers as researchers, International Journal of Health Services, 19(1), 135–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Ives, B. and Olson, M. (1984) User involvement and MIS success: a review of research, Management Science, 30(5), 586–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jarvenpaa, S., Dickson, G. and DeSanctis, G. (1985) Methodological issues in experimental IS research: experiences and recommendations, MIS Quarterly, 141–56.Google Scholar
  24. Jenkins, M. (1985) Research methodologies and MIS research, in Research Methods in Information Systems, Mumford, E., Hirschheim, R., Fitzgerald, G. and Wood-Harper, T. (eds) (North-Holland, Amsterdam) pp. 103–17.Google Scholar
  25. Jepsen, L., Mathiassen, L. and Nielsen, P. (1989) Back to the thinking mode: diaries for the management of information systems development projects, Behaviour and Information Technology 8(3), 207–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jönsson, S. (1991) Action research, in Information Systems Research: Contemporary Approaches and Emergent Traditions, Nissen, H.-E., Klein, H.K. and Hirschheim, R. (eds) (North-Holland, Amsterdam) pp. 371–96.Google Scholar
  27. Jowett, S. (1988) Hospital and community liaison links in nursing: the role of the liaison nurse, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 13, 579–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Keen, P. (1991) Relevance and rigour in information systems research, in Information Systems Research: Contemporary Approaches and Emergent Traditions L. Nissen, H.-E., Klein, H.K. and Hirschheim, R. (eds) (North-Holland, Amsterdam) pp. 27–50.Google Scholar
  29. Kirk, J. and Miller, M. (1986) Reliability and Validity in Qualitative Research (Sage, Newbury Park).Google Scholar
  30. Klein, H. Hirschheim, R. and Nissen, H.-E. (1991) A pluralist perspective of the information systems research arena, in Information Systems Research: Contemporary Approaches and Emergent Traditions, Nissen, H.-E., Klein, H.K. and Hirschheim, R. (eds) (North-Holland, Amsterdam) pp. 1–20.Google Scholar
  31. Lewin, K. (1951) Field Theory in Social Science (Harper & Bros, New York).Google Scholar
  32. Lippit, G. and Lippit. R. (1978) The Consulting Process in Action (University Associates, San Diego, CA).Google Scholar
  33. Lukka, K. (1987) Budgetary biasing in organizations: theoretical framework and empirical evidence, Accounting Organizations and Society, 13(3), 281–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Naur, P. (1983) Program development studies based on diaries, in Psychology of Computer Use, Green, T., Payne S. and Van der Veer, G. (eds) (Academic Press, London) pp. 159–70.Google Scholar
  35. Orlikowski, W. and Baroudi, J. (1991) Studying information technology in organizations: research approaches and assumptions, Information Systems Research, 2(1), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rapoport, R. (1970) Three dilemmas of action research, Human Relations 23, 499–513.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Rosenau, P. (1992) Post-Modernism and the Social Sciences: Insights, Inroads, and Intrusions (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ).Google Scholar
  38. Sanford, N. (1976) Whatever happened to action research? in Experimenting with Organizational Life: The Action Research Approach, Clark, A. (Compiler) (Plenum, New York).Google Scholar
  39. Schein, E. (1969) Process Consultation: Its Role in Organizational Development (Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA).Google Scholar
  40. Schein, E. (1987) The Clinical Perspective in Fieldwork (Sage, Newbury Park, CA).Google Scholar
  41. Seashore, S. (1976) The design of action research, in Experimenting with Organizational Life: The Action Research Approach, (Clarke, A. (Comp.) (Plenum, New York) pp. 103–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Straub, D. (1991) Session of ‘Rigor in information systems research: a discussion of the session papers’, In Information Systems Research: Contemporary Approaches and Emergent Traditions, Nissen, H.-E., Klein, H.K. and Hirschheim, R. (North-Holland, Amsterdam) pp. 103–6.Google Scholar
  43. Susman, G. (1983) Action research: a sociotechnical systems perspective, in Beyond Method: Strategies for Social Research, Morgan, G. (ed) (Sage, Newbury Park) pp. 95–113.Google Scholar
  44. Susman, G. and Evered, R. (1978) An assessment of the scientific merits of action research, Administrative Science Quarterly, 23, 582–603.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Trist, E. (1976) Engaging with large-scale systems, in Experimenting with Organizational Life: The Action Research Approach, Clark, A. (Comp.) (Plenum, New York).Google Scholar
  46. Van Eynde, D. and Bledsoe, J. (1990) The changing practice of organization development, Leadership and Organization Development Journal, 11(2), 25–30.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Warmington, A. (1980) Action research: its method and its implications, Journal of Applied Systems Analysis, 7, 23–39.Google Scholar
  48. Webb, C. (1989) Action research: philosophy, methods and personal experiences, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 14, 403–10.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wood-Harper, T. (1989) Comparison of information systems definition methodologies: an action research multiview perspective. PhD Thesis, University of East Anglia.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Association for Information Technology Trust 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard L. Baskerville
    • 1
  • A. Trevor Wood-Harper
    • 2
  1. 1.Copenhagen Business SchoolDenmark
  2. 2.Information Research CentreUniversity of SalfordUK

Personalised recommendations