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Practice Research

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A presentation by Göran Goldkuhl on practice research

A presentation by Göran Goldkuhl on practice research


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  • 1. Practice research - fundamentals Göran Goldkuhl Research group VITS Dep. of Management & Engineering Linköping University & SYSLAB, DSV Stockholm University Practice researchPractice research has evolved as a fruitfulresearch paradigm for research in informationsystems and also for other profession orienteddisciplines.It is based on a set of ontological andepistemological assumptions. 1
  • 2. Practice research: Ontolological assumptionsPrimary study objects are practicesA practice is meaningful unit of workA practice is a meaningful assemblage of actors (andtheir inner worlds), actions, utterances and documents,and material artefactsA practice means that some people conduct something infavor of some peopleA practice has an internal logic (meaningful and coherentbut also including tensions) which is related to anddetermined by external practices and their expectationsand other conditionsA practice is shaped by humans as an organised,artificial and continually evolving arrangement, enabledand restricted by human knowledge and financial,semiotic and material conditions Practice research: Ontolological assumptionsThe elements of a practice is determined oftheir functions in relation to the whole of thepractice and the other elements of the practicePractices are related to each other incomplicated ways (overlaps, cooperation,governance, sequences, subsets etc)Without seeing the practices, the social worldbecome fragmentedStudying social objects without consideringtheir practice habitat is very risky and mayimply confusion and misunderstanding 2
  • 3. Practice research: Epistemological foundationsA functional and prescriptive orientationtowards useful knowledge aiming fordevelopment and improvementA normative orientation towards what isconceived as valuable and promising inpracticesA diagnostic orientation towards evaluation ofpracticesA critical orientation in order to revealdeficiencies in practicesA prospective and design orientation for thenew and innovative Prospective knowledgeKnowledge about new possible situations“An empiricism which is content with repeating factsalready past has no place for possibility and liberty.” John Dewey (1931) 3
  • 4. Practice research: Epistemological foundationsKnowledge is generated through action(learning through exploration)Knowledge is provisional and developedthrough evolutionary processesKnowledge is co-created through dialoguesKnowledge development equals languagedevelopment and conceptual enhancement Practice researchPractical research is based on a pragmaticparadigm that sees commonsense as well asscientific knowledge as means to improvehuman practices (Dewey, 1938)Scientific knowledge about human practicesneeds to be useful for management andimprovement of such practicesThe main goal is to create scientificknowledge of practical value 4
  • 5. The anatomy of practice research Practice research Research community Theorizing (OR) (R) General practice (OP) Local Situational operational inquiry practice (P & R) (P) Different rolesResearchers (active in practice research) = RPractitioners (active in local practice) = POther researchers(target group in research community) = OROther practitioners(target group in general practice) = OP 5
  • 6. Results from practice researchSituational knowledge Local practice contributionsAbstract/general knowledge General practice contributions Contribution to scientific body of knowledge Practice research uses/produces abstract knowledgeAbstract knowledge Practical theories Models MethodsUsed as instruments in situational inquiriesEmerging during theorizing and situationalinquiryEnd result from practice research as transferable knowledge for general practice reviewable and cumulative knowledge for research community 6
  • 7. Different kinds of practice researchCase studiesAction researchDesign researchEvaluation researchCollaborative inquiries DocumentationGoldkuhl G (2008) Practical inquiry as actionresearch and beyond, ECIS-2008, GalwayGoldkuhl G (2008) What kind of pragmatism ininformation systems research?, AIS SIG PragInaugural meeting, ParisCronholm S, Goldkuhl G (2004)Conceptualizing Participatory Action Research –Three Different Practices, Electronic Journal ofBusiness Research Methods, Vol 2 (2)Goldkuhl G, Lind M (2010) A multi-groundeddesign research process, DESRIST-2010,St Gallen 7
  • 8. Workshop on Practice ResearchInternational workshop, 8/6 2011, HelsinkiInter-disciplinary Workshop Information systems Social workIssues How should we conduct inquiries in workpractices? What kind of knowledge is expected? What are the driving knowledge interests? How is practical relevance ensured? What kinds of interventions are adequate in work practices? How should we arrange cooperation between researchers and practitioners? 8