The Nature of Action Research

  • Alan Warmington
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 14)


I suppose my task in writing this paper is not only to outline the nature of action research but to open a discussion on how relevant the ideas of action research may be to the subject matter of the Conference. This I will attempt towards the end. I should however first make it plain that I write as a social scientist influenced particularly by the concept of the open socio-technical system first enunciated by The Tavistock Institute in U.K. At the time of writing my very limited knowledge of integrated production systems leaves me slightly doubtful how well the approaches to management problems of the systems analyst or systems engineer, and the social scientist, fit together.


Human Relation Action Researcher Professional Consultant System Analyst Client Organisation 
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  1. 1.
    R. N. Rapoport, “Three Dilemmas in Action Research”, Human Relations, 23, 6. 1970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. R. N. Rapoport: M. Foster, “An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Action Research in Work Organisations”, Human Relations, 25, 6. 1972.Google Scholar
  3. G. I. Susman and R. D. Evered, “An Assessment of the Merits of Action Research in Work Organisations”, Admin. Science Quarterly, 23, 6. 1978.Google Scholar
  4. Mr. Hult and S. A. Lennung, “Towards a Definition of Action Research”, Journal of Management Studies 17, 2. 1980.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. A. Warmington, “Action Research: its Methods and its Implications”, Journal of Systems Analysis, 7, 1980.Google Scholar
  6. 2.
    See for example, A. Schutz, “The Phenomenology of the Social World”, Heinemann, London (1972).Google Scholar
  7. 3.
    Floyd C. Mann in “Research in Industrial Human Relations”, C. M. Arenberg et al (eds), Harper and Row, N.Y. (1957).Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    A. Warmington, T. Lupton and C. Gribbin, “Organisational Behaviour and Performance”, Macmillan, London (1977), Chapter 10.Google Scholar
  9. 5.
    Especially R. N. Rapoport (1970) op.cit.Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    These issues are discussed at lenght in: A. Warmington (1980) op.cit.Google Scholar
  11. 7.
    For a case study illustrating these difficulties see A. W. Clark, “Sanction: a critical element in Action Research”, Journal of Applied Behavioural Sciences 8, 6.1972.Google Scholar
  12. 8.
    Lisl Klein, “A Social Scientist in Industry”, Gower, Epping (1976), esp. Chapter 2.Google Scholar
  13. 9.
    As well as the last three references, see F. Goldner, Role Emergence and the Ethics of Ambiguity, in “Ethics, Politics and Social Research”, G. Sjoberg (ed, Routledge, London (1976).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alan Warmington
    • 1
  1. 1.Organisation Development Manchester Business SchoolUniversity of ManchesterManchesterEngland

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