Reviews

Handbook of action research

This book represents the concise paperback edition of a seminal work on action research. The hardback version has for the past few years been an excellent source of knowledge on the many different approaches to action research in a wide range of contexts and settings. The original book is by no means a beginners’ compendium; action research is a broad church, but without an understanding of how it compares with other research strategies, the niceties of some of the variants can be elusive. For example, some would argue that action research is necessarily underpinned by critical theory and that it is always conducted in the participatory, transformative mode. Looking down the list of chapters, one would be forgiven for thinking this to be so, but a much closer scrutiny demonstrates that action research has a long history, along a continuum of ‘highly theoretical’ to ‘very pragmatic’ and in many fields including education, health care, social situations and organisations.

The original version had 45 chapters, an introduction and a conclusion — the concise edition has 32 plus the same introduction and conclusion. The structure is exactly as before — with four parts and chapters grouped under groundings, practices, exemplars and skills. Comparing the two editions, it is difficult to tell the rationale for why some chapters were omitted from the compact edition, apart from the obvious need to reduce the size. The mainstream contributions still seem to be present, and some of the more quirky sounding chapters have gone (such as ‘I wish this were a poem of practices of participatory research’). It would only be the really dedicated scholar who would feel the need to go back to the first edition. Having said that the print in the concise edition is very small and the larger print in the hardback may be preferable.

This book is an absolute

...

The original version had 45 chapters, an introduction and a conclusion — the concise edition has 32 plus the same introduction and conclusion. The structure is exactly as before — with four parts and chapters grouped under groundings, practices, exemplars and skills. Comparing the two editions, it is difficult to tell the rationale for why some chapters were omitted from the compact edition, apart from the obvious need to reduce the size. The mainstream contributions still seem to be present, and some of the more quirky sounding chapters have gone (such as ‘I wish this were a poem of practices of participatory research’). It would only be the really dedicated scholar who would feel the need to go back to the first edition. Having said that the print in the concise edition is very small and the larger print in the hardback may be preferable.

This book is an absolute must for anyone who is really serious about the theories and practice of action research — but mainly used as a source book rather than a work to be read from cover to cover. Plus it is well within many people’s price range, whereas the hardback version is prohibitively expensive for most students, researchers and practitioners.

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