Action Research Design

In a 4- to 6-page paper, address the following task:

State a hypothetical or actual business problem that might lend itself to action research. Provide a description of the problem and identify what questions need to be answered. Then, briefly outline a plan that includes the action that is proposed to be taken. Briefly identify what type of data would likely result from the proposed action. Describe how you might evaluate and reflect on the data and what action you may consider taking in the next iteration.

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Assignment Expectations

Your 4- to 6-page paper must follow APA formatting and demonstrate clarity, depth, and critical thinking. As you answer the questions posed in this case, include supporting rationale and cited sources.

Action research is defined as applied research that focuses on solving practitioner problems (Johnson & Christensen, 2012). The term “action” within action research implies both the collection and evaluation data as well as undertaking specific initiatives—that is “doing something” in order to solve a specific problem, improve a process, or address a deficiency. Action research therefore follows a cycle of plan-act-reflect that is often repeated multiple times in order to converge on sound and workable findings. Although action research is similar to change management in its structured approach to change, action research is distinctive in its focus on reflection and evaluation of the collected data that emerges from the taken action. Further, action research is an iterative process. The results of the plan-act-reflect cycle are used to engage in further action (Dick, 2014). The intense reflection that takes place in action research could be compared to the successive stages of evaluation observed in root cause analysis. In the field of business, it is essential that the practitioner “solves the right problem”. Reflection on the results helps ensure that this happens.

If you noticed that the plan-act-observe-reflect cycle mirrors the Deming plan-do-check-act cycle, you would be right. There are similarities between these structured, common-sense steps associated with arriving at the fundamental nature of the problem. However, action research is grounded in the “appreciative enquiry” cycle that emphasizes a holistic depth of understanding that goes beyond surface analysis of empirical data (Coates, 2005).

The participatory element of action research also finds common ground with change management and case study research. The researcher is a participant in the actions taken and in the reflection on the collected data. As such, an action researcher may act as a change agent. This characteristic of action research makes it ideal for business practitioners who intend to embark on a career in consulting.

The plan

Successful action research begins with a plan. The plan outlines the overall strategy for how the research will be carried out. Further, since action research initiates action based on findings—the design of the overall research is closely linked and nearly synonymous with the action research plan. Finally, the plan may be iterative in nature, so the design of the research must take this into account.

Often, the difficulty for the researcher is knowing where to begin. A suggestion is to follow a checklist that helps clarify the nature of the problem within the research setting (typically an organization), initial assumptions going into the study, how the data might be collected (and in what form), and finally, any rough idea of what possible solutions may look like. Sample questions for the researcher to consider are:

What is the nature of the problem that is proposed to be investigated?
What is the scope of the problem, and who are the players (i.e., stakeholders) that have an interest in the outcome of the research?
What are some preliminary options for collecting data?
How is the collected data to be evaluated?
How will the results of the data collection be applied to a change/improvement initiative?
How will I know if the problem has been addressed—and what data do I need in order to determine this? (Ferrance, N.D.)

Since the design of the research and the overall plan are essential elements of action research, the case assignment for Module 3 will provide an opportunity to conceive of and design a simply high-level action research plan.

Adams, J., Raeside, R., & Khan, H. (2014). Research methods for business and social science students (2nd ed.). New Delhi: SAGE Publications. Available on EBSCOhost database.

Coates, M. (2005). Action Research A Guide for Associate Lecturers. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from Center for Outcomes Based Education.

Dick, B. (2014, December 30). Action research and evaluation on line (web). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from (Read “Session 1 and Session 2” links)

Ferrance, E. (n.d.). Action Research: Themes in Education. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from

Harrison, R. L (2013). Using mixed methods designs in the Journal of Business Research, 1990–2010, Journal of Business Research, Volume 66, Issue 11. Obtained from Trident Online Library.

Johnson, B. & Christensen, L. (2012). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches. (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc. Obtained from Trident Online Library.

Sankaran, S. and Hou, T.B. (N.D.) Action_research_models_in_business_research.pdf pp8-12

Perry, C., & Zuber-Skerritt, O. (1992). Action Research in Graduate Management Research Programs. Higher Education, 23(2), 195-208. Obtained from Trident Online Library.

Centre for Lifelong Learning. (n.d.). Retrieved November 27, 2016, from

Ferrance, E. (n.d.). Action Research: Themes in Education. Retrieved November 27, 2016, from

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