Information Systems Action Research

An Applied View of Emerging Concepts and Methods


A book published by Springer

Book editor: Ned Kock


[ Vendors' sites ] [ Brief book synopsis ] [ Action research ] [ About the Editor ]



Vendors' sites


Brief book synopsis

This book is a compilation of invited chapters written by leading information systems (IS) action researchers from all over the world.

The book is organized into three main parts:

Part I: Focuses on methodological issues related to the conduct of IS action research.

Part II: Provides several examples of IS action research in practice.

Part III: Summarizes current debate on IS action research, including debate regarding its philosophical foundations, use in PhD programs, and validity of findings obtained through its use.

The book includes chapters written by a variety of IS action researchers from many different countries (including countries in Europe, Australasia, and the Americas). Those researchers represent different action research perspectives and traditions. The authors of the chapters are prominent scholars, who are widely recognized as authors of seminal ideas in connection with IS action research.


Action research

A key characteristic of action research sets it apart from other research approaches. In action research, investigators try to fulfill the needs of their study subjects and, at the same time, generate new knowledge. Thus, IS action researchers have to serve two masters: their immediate research "clients" (i.e., the research subjects), who directly benefit from the research while it is being conducted, and the IS academic community in general.

If the main client of the research is a company, for example, IS action researchers will typically try to help the company solve some of its problems or improve some of its business processes with the use of IS, and use this experience to collect research data from which findings will be derived that will inform future projects in similar organizational contexts.

Action research has been seen as a distinctive form of research since the early 1940s. Kurt Lewin is generally regarded as one of its pioneers and the first person to use the term "action research" to refer to a specific research approach in which the researcher generates new knowledge about a social system, while at the same time attempts to change it. A distinctive thrust of action research has also developed, after World War II, at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London as a method to deal with social and psychological disorders arising from prison camps and battlefields. In the field of IS, action research has been used only since the 1980s, and the number of published examples of IS action research in academic IS publications is very small.

One of the reasons for the emergence of action research and its subsequent use in the IS field is the recognition, largely motivated by the early work of ethnographers, that a research environment can be more deeply understood if the researcher becomes part of that environment. This can be achieved by the researcher becoming an agent of change in the environment being studied, as usually is the case in action research in general. The involvement of the researcher with the environment under study is also believed to foster cooperation and candid information exchange between the researcher and those who are being studied well beyond what can be expected in other research approaches, such as experimental, survey and even case research. This, in turn, can increase the validity of research findings.


About the Editor

Ned Kock (Web page) is Associate Professor and Founding Chair of the Division of International Business and Technology Studies, in the College of Business Administration, Texas A&M International University. Ned also serves as the Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of e-Collaboration. He holds a B.E.E. in electronics engineering from the Federal Technological University of Parana at Curitiba, Brazil, a M.Sc. in computer science from the Institute of Aeronautical Technology, Brazil, and a Ph.D. in management with a concentration in information systems from the School of Management Studies, University of Waikato, New Zealand. Ned's Ph.D. research analyzed the impact of asynchronous e-collaboration technologies on business process improvement groups.

In 1999, Ned conceived and chaired a panel titled “IS Action Research: Can we Serve two Masters?” in the International Conference on Information Systems – the most prestigious conference in the field of IS. That panel included as panelists David Avison, Richard Baskerville, Michael Myers, and Trevor Wood-Harper.

In 2001, Ned guest-edited (with Francis Lau), the first-ever special issue of a journal on IS action research. The journal was Information Technology & People, published by MCB Press (Emerald) in England. That issue has been widely cited by IS action researchers all over the world, and has also served as a reference for action researchers in disciplines other than IS – notably education and organizational behavior.

In 2002, Ned conceived and chaired a well attended panel titled “Can Action Research be Successfully Used in Information Systems Doctoral Research?” in the Informing Science Conference, which was held at the University College Cork, in Cork, Ireland. The panel included panelists from three different countries, who discussed their experiences conducting and/or advising doctoral IS action research.

Several of Ned’s published articles report on IS action research studies and/or address methodological issues in connection with IS action research. His most recent articles on IS action research are: “The Three Threats of Action Research: A Discussion of Methodological Antidotes in the Context of an Information Systems Study”, published in 2004 in the journal Decision Support Systems; “Principles of Canonical Action Research” (with Robert Davison and Maris Martinsons), published in 2004 in the Information Systems Journal; and “Action Research: Lessons Learned from a Multi-Iteration Study of Computer-mediated Communication in Groups”, published in 2003 in the journal IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication.