Information Systems Action research methods


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Information Systems Action research methods

  1. 1. (C) Raimo Hälinen (2012)
  2. 2. Philosphical discussion Subjective/ Argumentative Grounded theory Field studies Case studies Action research Design research Action design research Mathematical proof Theorem proof Field experiment Laboratory experiment Simulation Survey Analytical Emprical Qualitative Quantitative Source: adapted from Brjørnson (2007)
  3. 3.  Kurt Levin (1946) defined the term ”action research“. A social research is a combination of theory and practice, and purpose is to change a social system through researcher acting as an observer or as an active participant.  In Britain a group of researchers (later at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations) developed independent action research method.  John Collier (1945) developed approach to action-oriented knowledge.  Rapoport (1970) defined “Action research aims to contribute both to the practical concerns of people in an immediate problematic situation and to the goals of social science by joint collaboration within a mutually acceptable ethical framework. “  Arguris et al. (1987) defined action research as an action science.
  4. 4. Practical problem-solving Practitioners and designers achieving practical solution in organizational context Research projects Researchers interested in studying reality and developing knowledge Action research area Practical problem-solving integrated to research setting and participant researcher
  5. 5.  According to Baskerville (1999), action research is two stage process. Diagnostic and therapeutic. Primary goals Organisational development System design Scientific knowledge Training Structure Rigorous Fluid Typical involment Collaborative Facilitative Expert Process model Iterative Reflective Linear Social environment (Client-system infrastructure) Source: Baskerville (1999) Action research stages Client-System infrastructure 1. Diagnosing 2. Action planning 3. Action taking 4. Evaluating 5. Specifying learning
  6. 6. Iterative action research types Canonical Action research Soft Systems Prototyping Collaborative practice research Cyclical Process model Diagnosing, action planning action taking, evaluating and learning Cyclical spiral process Reflective action research Action science research Participant observation Action learning Dialogical action research (used other dicipline) Linear action research Ethics-method Multiview Clinical field work (laboratory research) Process consultation
  7. 7. Premises Decision Contributions Practice-oriented Research is real-world problem-solving oriented. Induktiivinen Observing and discussing Analyzing real- world phenomena Experiments Field researches Theory development Method(s) of problem-solving Research method Theoretical Research is based on theoretical questions of information systems. Knowledge questions Deduktiivinen Developing research methods based on theory, and evaluating theory Experiments Field study Theory development Methods of problem-solving Research method Source: Mathiassen, Chiasson and Germonprez, 2012 Järvinen Pertti: review, 2012
  8. 8. Type Description Epistemological orientation Positivist AR The research is based on predifined hypotheses and thus testing theory using by multiple methods. Positivist (high) Action science The goal of the research is to solve problems in a client organization by exposing differences between espoused theory and theory in use. Positivist (Medium) Canonical AR Theory provides the general basis on which action planning take place. Attention is paid to theory assessment and refinement. Positivist (low) Participatory AR Theory emerges through the research. Research client participate actively in the data analysis and respective learning processes. Interpretive (high) Multiview The goal is to identify and improve a client situation through the use of a joint information systems development methodology. Interpretive (meidum) Soft systems methodology The goal is to diagnose and solve a problem in a client organization through a well defined and structured process- oriented methodology. Interpretive (low) Critical AR Research is motivated by power imbalances and is aimed at having a liberating effect, wheryby power imbalances are reduced or eliminated. Critical high) Source: DeLuca and Kock (2007)
  9. 9. Assumptions Ontology The beliefs of the social reality, how social reality is constructed. Action research is value laden, morally committed. A researcher perceive themselves their social context. Epistemology The epistemological position is mainly anti-positivist. Researches can search for regualarities and causal relationships. Knowledge is uncertain, knowledge creation is collaborative process. Methodology The methodology is open-ended and developmental. Ethics Means-ends oriented and may be interpretive. Its focus is real-world problems to trying to find out solutions. Its ethical framework is mutually acceptable with researches and practitioners. (Client-problem solving approach). Iivari and Venable (2009), Whitehead and McNiff (2006), Järvinen P. (2005)
  10. 10. Premises Description 1. Purpose of action The action research must explicate the theoretical purpose underline the action. Theory must be explicit before action is taken. 2. Practical action in problem setting It is necessary to reveal the relative truth-value of the theoretical concepts underlying the action. 3. Practical action must inform theory The theory must be adjusted according to the practical outcome of the action. Theory must be validated by its practical outcome. 4. Reasoning and action must be socially situated The social situation means that the action researchers must be participant observers. Source: Baskerville and Mayers (2004) Dewey (1938), common elements of inquiry: An indeterminate situation, formulation of problem, determination of a solution, reasoning, and operationalization of facts.
  11. 11. Research setting Methodological principles Critical assumptions Action research team Teachers, Principals, Practitioners, Consultants Interaction of action and participation. Context specific understanding and ways of knowing. Developing of agential learning capabilities. Conceptualizing critical action research based on the assumption that the truth of social reality resides otuside the contexts of participants until they receive emansipatory knowledge. (ideal emansipation) Networked working Establishment of collective vision of social change and sustainability. Incorporation of high level of reflexity. Gaining broader perspective of social change and sustainability. Enhancement of diversity. Researchers and practitioners are closely working and regular meetings are organized. Data collection techniques Collaborative inquiry into Client-System organization. Critical data gathered and discussions recorded. Collected information is shared including confidential data.
  12. 12. Researcher’s expertise of theory Practitioner’s expertise of praxis Real world problemsReflective dialogue Action research team Action/stimulus Reaction/response Source: Mårtensson and Lee (2004)
  13. 13. Researcher’s expertise Practitioner’s expertise Analyzing real-world problems Research start state Time Research end state Improved researcher’s expertise Improved practitioner’s expertise Solved or analyzed real world phenomena Source: Mårtensson and Lee (2004) Research start at time=1 Research end at time=2
  14. 14. Key features Description 1. PAR is social process It explores the relationships between the realms of the individual and the social. 2. PAR is participatory It engages people in examining their knowledge (understanding, skills and values) and interpretive categories and their action in the social and material world. 3. PAR is practical and collaborative It engages people in examining the social practices that link them with others in social interaction. 4.PAR is emansipatory It aims to help people recover, and release themselfs from the constraints of irrational, unproductive, unjust and unsatisfying social structures that limit their self-development and self-determination. 5. PAR is critical It aims people to help recover, and release themselfes from the constraints embedded in the social media through which they interact. 6. PAR is recursive (reflective and dialectical) It aims to help people to investigate reality in order to change it. 7. PAR aims to tranform both theory and practice It aims to help people to articulate and develop each in relation to the other through critical reasoning about both theory and practice and their concequences. Source: Denzin and Lincoln (2000)
  15. 15. A spiral process of action researech Skills and values Social practices Communication Production Social organization Social structures Culture Economy Political life Social media Language Work Power Individual knowledge Understanding Skills Values Social practices Communication Production Social organization Social structures Culture Economy Political life Social media Language Work Power Individual’s knowledge Understanding
  16. 16. Basic assumptions Descriptions Teachers and principals work best on problems they have identified for themselves. Action research is deliberate, solution-oriented investigation. It is characterized by spiraling cycles of problem identification,m analysis, data- driven action taken, and finally problem redefinition. Teachers and principals become more effectice when encouraged to examine and assess their own work and then consider ways of working differently. Purpose of action research in education can be to develop curriculum, professional skills, systems planning, school restructuring and to develop evaluation tools. Teachers and principals help each other by working collaboratively. Working with colleagues helps teachers and prinicipals in their professional development. In order to do action research it needs that time, and other resources are available for teachers. Source: Eileen Ferrance (2000) and Watts (1985, p.118)
  17. 17. Assumptions Description Epistemology (relationship between inquirer and the known) Research is carried out in a natural environment, and it is based on the constructivist ideas. Axiology (ethical, aesthetic and spritual considerations) Research practice is improved, and learning has taken place. Practitioners' and researchers’ collaborative work may benefit research processes and results. Ontology (nature of reality/people) Research purpose is intentional and collaborative, and phenomenon of interest is chancing (it is not static). Generation of theory Results of research process is often contex-based. Some generalization with or across research projects may be possible. Methods Research methods are qualitative (positive thoughts to the grounded theory). Source: adapted from Papas et al. (2012
  18. 18. Project start Diagnosis Identifying and defining problem Action taking (Intervention) Data collection and analysis Evaluation Action and results Reflection A general findings Action planning Exploring alternative solutions Project end Instrumental theory Focal theories Research- Client agreement Focal theory is the intellectual basis for action research. (e.g. TAM, IS-success) Instrumental theories are used for diagnosis and planning, and to organize thoughts. Source: Davison(2003) and Järvinen (2011)
  19. 19. Real-world situations and systems Analysis of problem situation and evalution Conceptual model of real- world problem Structured real- world problems Action to improve the problem situation (implementation) Defining concepts and models Development of feasible and desirable changesReal wolrd System thinking Root definition of relevan system Comparison of the model with real-world phenomenon
  20. 20. Action Research Case study Research Case studies Intensive or comparative 1. Purpose 2. Assumption 3. Situation 1. select cases 2. data collection 3. analyzing data 4. shaping hypothesis 5. comparison with literature 6. conclusions 4. Types of research 1. Narrative 2. Tabulation 3. Explanatory 4. Interpretative Source: Eisehardt (1989), Cunningham (1997), Järvinen P. (2012) Germonprez M. and Mathiassen L. (2009)
  21. 21. Principles Foundatation Epistemology and action research types: CAR,PAR,NAR, AL, CFW. Ethics Research-client agreement Formal/non-formal argreement, Client commitment Role expectations Data collection and analysis Project focus Cyclical process model Degree of opennes Cycle description Decision criteria for proceed/exit Theory Relevance and theory usage Change through action Cause, intervention, client approval organizational assessment, document Learning through reflection Reporting style, Collaborative reflection Project success, implication to practice and theory Source: De Vries (2007)
  22. 22. Research design types Descriptions The world that is explored Sequential Methods are applied in a sequence with results from one method feeding into the next. 1. Material world 2. Personal world 3. Social world Parallel Methods are executed simultaneusly with results being tranferred between methods. Dominant One method is adopted as the main approach supplemented by other methods. Multi- methodology Different methods embodying different paradigms are combined and tailored to a particular project. Research perspective: 1. subjective 2. objective 3. intersubjective Multi-level The research project simultaneusly addresses different organizational levels using different methods. Source: Mingers (2001)
  23. 23. Design principles Design outcomes Socio-technical implications Context-sensitive service (How to switch between different contexts?) Increased convenience Better ease of use User acceptance Various individual use patterns Wider and easier user acceptance No resistance Contextually adapted (How to recognize different usage situtation at work?) Improved working situation Better modification rules and ease settings Integration of services relying on different interaction models Ubiquitous computing environment. Context-switching support (What are typical context-switching situation at work?) Generally convienient context switches Trustful context-switches. No need specific user-guides. Source: modified from Henfridsson (2003)
  24. 24. Evaluation objects Evaluation criteria are based on the following: Socially situated The role of action researchers (degree of participant and role of observer). Problem relevance Research problem is relevant and problem is based on practical phenomenon and actual for the company or the society. Purpose of research The purpose of the research is to produce problem-solving proposals and proposals are based on collected data and analysis. Practical action in the problem All research actions are described, and clearly articulated in a way that it is possible to carry out research using by similar actions. Applied research method(s) The applied research method is clearly described, and it is based on generally accepted action research method. It is possible to apply more than one method during the research process. Used theoretical framework Research actions are based on theoretical framework, and these actions can inform theory. Research activities and research rigour All research activities are described and are based on applied research method, so that other researchers or readers can follow the research process. Theoretical contribution The theoretical contributions are articulated in a way that can be used other research projects. Practical contribution Results of research includes problem-solving proposals that are accepted by practitioners. Source: adapted from Papas et al. (2012)
  25. 25. Schön’s reflection question of problem-solving:  Can I solve the problem I have set?  Do I like what I get when I solve this problem?  Have I made the situation coherent?  Have I made it congruent with my fundamental values and theories?  Have I kept inquiry moving?
  26. 26. Typical role of action research Description Research planner, leader and designer An action researcher is planning a research project. A researcher can lead the research project. A researcher designs the whole action research process. Catalyzer, facilitator, teacher, helper During the action research process, the researcher can activate other participants, organize meetings and discussions. The role of teacher is essential to conform with that research process is carried out properly. Listener, observer Both roles, listener and observer are fundamental. The researcher can collect relevant information by listening and observing. Synthesizer and reporter (Active decision maker) Supporter The role of synthesizer means that the researcher during the research process actively collects data and analyses it. The role of a reporter means that the researcher arranges continuous reporting during the research process. After the process, the researcher finalizes and publishes the results of action research taken both theoretical and practical reasoning into account. Source: modified from O´Brien (1998)
  27. 27. Research object Criteria to select Action research approach The artefact and organizational practice The design process of an artifact can improve organization practices, and this is the primary goal of the inquiry. The design of an artifact may need to apply design science method. This must be taken into account. The process and research cycles Practical problem is explicit and diagnosis may be time consuming. Canonical action research method is suitable or possible. Research project is based on agreement between researcher(s) and practioners. The focus of evaluation The evaluation steps are part of the research cycle. The role of knowledge Practical actions and outcomes dominate the research project. Collaborative working style is dominative. The one objective is to enhance knowledge during the research project. The role of learning Shared actions between researcher(s) and practitioners will lead to learn.
  28. 28. Action research Design science research Action research emphasizes the utility aspect of the future system from the people’s point of view. Design science’s products are assessed against criteria of valua or utility. Action research produces knowledge to guide practice in modification. Design science produces design knowledge (concepts, constructs, models, and methods.) Action research means both action taking and evaluating. Buildin and evaluation are the two main activities of design science. Action researc is carried out in collaboration between action researcher and and the client system. Design science research is initiated by the researcher(s) interest in developing technological rules for a certain type of issue. (Each individual case is primarily oriented at solvin the local problem in close collaboration wtih the local people.) Action research modifies a given reality or develops new system. Design science solves construction problems (producing new innovations) and improvement problems (improving the performance of existing entities). The researcher intervenes in the problem setting. Design science research is initiated by the researcher (s) interest in developing technological rules for certain type of issue. Knowledge is generated, used, tested adn modified in the course of the action research project. Knowledge is generated, used and evaluated through the building action. Source: Järvinen p: (2005)
  29. 29. Phases Field experiment canonical action research At start of reserch Researcher’s role is dominant Practitioner’s role is non-dominant Researcher’s role is non-dominant Practitioner’s role is dominant During research process Researcher’s role is dominant Practitioner’s role is non-dominant Both roles are collaborative At end of research process Researcher’s role is dominant in scientific evaluation Practitioner’s role is domnant in practical evaluation Researcher’s role is dominant in scientific evaluation Practitioner’s role is domnant in practical evaluation Purpose of research Testing hypotheses and relationship between independed and depended variables. The purpose is to solve real-world problem with practitioners. Theoretical framework. Outcomes of research The relationship in the research model is supported or not supported by the evidence of field experiment. Possible practical implications can be also achieved. The relevant outcome is to solve pratitioner’s problem and in the intended manner. The scientific result is to the theoretical framework studying by assumed relationship between variables. The concept of study Manipulating isolated single variable and at same time being other variable constant. The cyclical research process includes diagnosing, action planning, action taking, evaluating and specifying learning
  30. 30. Action research Design science research Purpose Understanding reality in an organizational context Solving a purely technical problem by developing and evaluating a new solution technology. Suggestion Action planning. Considering alternative courses of action for solving a problem. Defining needed requirements and main features of a solution. Specifying research process by applying research method(s). Development Action taking. Selecting a course of action. Data collection and analysis. Developing a solution that meets requirements and features and start the building process. Evaluation is included to the building as an activity. Evaluation Studying concequences of an action. Demontrating, simulating developed solution using by specified evaluation method. Conclusion Specifying learning and identifying general findings. Publishing theoretical and practical consequences and future research proposals.
  31. 31. Improvement problem (IT-artefact ) Knowledge problem (Design science) Improvement problem (Action research Client-System environment) Problem investigation Stakeholders, goals, criteria Phenomena and evaluation Research problem investigation Unit of study Conceptual model Research questions and Current knowledge Problem investigation Stakeholders, goals, criteria Phenomena, diagnosis Evaluation Artifact design Requirements Features of the artefact Criteria of evaluation Plan of development process Research design Acquire client Agree on improvement goals Agree treatment and measurement Reasoning Treatment design Specify treatment using artefact Agree on implementation plan Design validation Expected effect in context Expected evaluation Trade-offs Sensitivity Research design validation Effective for question-answering Good enough Trade-offs Sensitivity Design validation Expected effect in client-systems Expected evaluation Trade-offs Sensitivity Implementation Transfer to the economy Research execution Perform the research project Implementation Implementation of artefact in client- system Implementation evaluation Stakeholders, goals, criteria Achieved effects in conctext Achieved evaluation results (Field experiment) Analysis of results Observation Explanation Limitations Contribution to knowledge Consequences for improvement Implementation evaluation Stakeholders, goals, criteria Achieved effects in client-system Achieved evaluation results. Source: modified from Wieringa and Morali (2012)
  32. 32. IT-artefact problem investigation IT-artefact design It-artefact design validation It-artefact implementation Implementation evaluation Research problem investigation Research design Research design validation Research execution Analysis of research results and publishing Client-system problem investigation Treatment design Design validation Implementation in the Client- system Implentation evaluation and applying results
  33. 33. Engineering cycle Engineering cycle Idealizing assumptions Realistic assumptions o o o o Framework for IS design science Environ- ment IS design sccience Knowledge base Improvement problem solving Knowledge question investigation Goals Artifact Knowledge
  34. 34. Design researcher Artifact Practitioner Stakeholder Engineer, manager, user, customer Design and implementation Study Treatment Problem context
  35. 35. real-world problems Area – of research interest Framework of area of research interest Framework of indepented research interest Research methods Research questions Conceptual contrubutions A C(a) C(fi) Research methodology development M(r) M(ps) Possible solutions to real-world problems Source: based on Mathiassen L., Chiasson M., and Germonprez M. (2009)
  36. 36. Risk factors A researcher’s role and responsiblity in Action research projects 100% 75% 50% 25% Time consuming research projects High High Medium Low Loosing control of research agenda High Medium Medium Medium Need for nursing research projects High High Medium Low Concern with progress and success High High Medium Low Facing conficting situations High High Medium Low Fearful of not being succesful project High High Medium Low Simonsen (2009) Simonsen proposes that junior researchers should participate in collaborative research projects that are managed by senior researchers. Having the supervisor co-operation in the action research can lead to the better results and lower to risks.
  37. 37. Style Definitions From-the- trenches Focus on the practical problem- solving contribution and/or specific research settings. Action research results R = f(A,P,F, M,C), where A is area of concern, P is real-world problem setting, F is conceptual framing of investigation, M is method(s), and C is contributions to practice and theory. Area- of concern investigation Contribution to A or F(a) withing a particular research setting. Emprical Conceptual Framework investigation Contribution to F(i) with new knowledge on frameworks independet of A for studying IS practice. Critique Development Problem-solving methodology Contribution to M(ps) with new knowledge about problem-solving methods. Critique Development Research methodology investigation Contribution to M(r) with new knowledge on action research methods. Critique Development Source: adapted from Mathiassen L., Chiasson M., and Germonprez M. (2009
  38. 38. Structure Description Intoduction Introduce and motivate objective of the study. Background Provide a review of the relevant literature. Include the motivation for the study by evaluating what we know and what we do not know. Framing Introduce and argue how the structure of data and data gathering has been organized. Give premises how data is analyzed based on the principle of theory. Methods Describe and argue why the selected method(s) is applied to the study. Results Present results of the problem-solving cycle based research method(s) and data-analysis. Discussion and conclusions Discuss and draw conclusions based on research questions and the objective of the research. Show research results in relation to literature. Provide possible explanations, explicate conclusions with evidence for each conclusion. State theoretical and practical implications. Source: modified from Mathiassen, Chiasson and Germonprez (2009)
  39. 39. Criteria Description Articulation of objectives Researchers explicitly clarify the research objectives, which they believe to be relevant to their work. Researchers describe choices they have made during the research process. Partnership and participation Researcher extent the means of partnership and how they participate during the research process. Researchers concern all relevant relational components of the action research process. The role of researchers is essentially described on the research paper (passive observer, active observer, consultation or active participant). Contribution to action research theory and practice A researcher describes and communicates how results of action research can be linked to the wider body of knowledge, and how results can be utilized in practice in the future. Methods and process A researcher clearly articulates what was done to whom so that a reader can see the choices to enhance quality that were made. Actionability A researcher articulates how new ideas guided research activities and how ideas can be utilized next research projects. Reflexivity A researcher how the role of the researcher has been active as a change agent. Significance A researcher explicitly clarifies the significance of the content and research process so that a reader can see how results and process extent both research knowledge in theory and practice. Source: modified from Huang (2010)
  40. 40.  Baskerville R. (1999) Intestigating information systems with action research, Communication of the Asssociation for Information Systems, Vol.2, Article 2.  Baskerville R. and Wood-Harper A.T.(1996) A critical perspective on action research as a method for infomation systems research, Journal of Information Technology 11, pp.235-246.  Baskerville R and Myers M.D.(2004) Special issue on action research in information systems: Making IS research relevant to parctice – foreword, MIS Quarterly, Vol. 28, No. 3, pp.329-335.  BjØrnson F.O. (2007) Action research in the Informatics Field: Comparing Different Traditions, Trial Lecture, Tronheim, ovailable online.  Chapman C., Paterson M. and Medver J.M.(2011) The Quipped Project: Exploring relevance and rigor of action research using esptablished principles and criteria, The Qualitative Report Vol. 16, No.1, pp. 208-228.  Davison R.M., Martinsons M.G. and Kock N. (2004) Principles of canonical action research, Information Systems Journal, 14,pp. 65- 86.  Davison R.M., Martinsons M.G. and Ou C.X.J. (2012) The Roles of theory in canonical action research, MIS Quarterly Vo. 36. No.3, pp. 763-786.  DeLuca D. and Kock N. (2007) Publising information systems action research for a positivist audience, Communication of the Association for Information Systems, Vol. 19, Article 10.  Germonprez M. and Mathiassen L. (200x) The role of conventional research methods in information systems action research,  Huang H.B. (2010) What is good action research?: Why the resurgent interest?, Sage, available on line  Iivari J. and Venable J. (2009), Action Research and Design Science Research – similar but decisively dissimilar, ECIS 2009, !7th Europearn Conference on Information Systems  Järvinen P. (2007) Action research as an approach in design science, Department of Computer Science, University of Tampere, D- 2005-7.  Järvinen P. (2012) On research methods, Opinpajan Kirja, Tampere.  Järvinen P. (2012) On boundaries between field experiment, action research and design research, University of Tamper, School of Information sciences, Reports in Information Sciences 14.  Mathiassen L., Chiasson M. and Germonprex M. (2009 Compsitional Styles in Action Research: A Critical Analysis of Leading Information Systems Journals, Lancaster University, UK . Sprouts: Working Papers on Information Systems, 9(35).  Susman G.I. and Evered R.D. (1978) An assessment of the scientific merits of action research, Adminstrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 582 – 603.  Vries, E.J. de (2007), Rigorously Relevant Action Research in Information Systems. In: Österle, H.,Schelp, J. and Winter, R., Relevant Rigour – Rigorous Relevance. Proceedings of the 15th  European Conference of Information Systems, St. Gallen, June 7-9, 2007.  Wiering R. and Morali (2012) Technical action research as a validation method in information systems, DESRIST´12, Proceeding of the 7th international conference on Design Science Research in Information Systems, pp.220-238.
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