Action Research for Health and Social Care: A Guide to Practice

Action Research for Health and Social Care: A Guide to Practice

Action Research for Health and Social Care: A Guide to Practice

Action Research for Health and Social Care: A Guide to Practice


• What is action research and how can it best be understood?

• How can practitioners use action research to deal with problems and improve services?

• What are the different types of action research and which
might be most appropriate for use in a particular setting?

This book has been designed for use as a core text on research methods courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level and on professional training courses. It is divided into three parts. Part one traces the history of action research and shows the links between its use in education, community development, management research and nursing. Building on this background the book explores different ways in which action research has been defined and proposes four different types, each appropriate to a different problem situation and context. In part two, five case studies of action research are described from the perspective of the researcher, including case studies of success and instructive failure. Part three is designed to enable the reader to find a route through the maze of methods and approaches in action research by the use of such things as self-assessment and mapping exercises, a guide to diary keeping and to evaluation. The final chapter suggests that by developing a 'project perspective' action research can be of practical benefit to health and social care professionals in promoting service improvements.


Our combined experiences of researching and working in health and social care settings over a number of years have led us to recognize the value of action research in helping practitioners, managers and researchers to make sense of problems in service delivery and in promoting initiatives for change and improvement. Through the five case studies in Part 2, which we conducted singly and in partnership with others, we illustrate the scope which exists for front fine staff and commissioned researchers to undertake action research projects, and to work collaboratively with clients, users, managers and others towards emergent shared goals. As such we present case studies of instructive failure as well as of success. Although action research is not necessarily the optimum choice in all settings, it is particularly appropriate where problemsolving and improvement are on the agenda. Moreover, the combination of enquiry, intervention and evaluation which powers the action research cycle mirrors the iterative processes employed by professional staff in assessing the needs of vulnerable people, responding to them and reviewing progress. Thus many practitioners will already be familiar with an action research approach, even though they might not explicitly label what they do as such. Within nursing, East and Robinson (1994) have observed that the . . .

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