A Conversation with SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research Editor David Coghlan

A Conversation with SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research Editor David Coghlan

Click link above to see David’s video. See below for transcript.

Encyclopedia of Action Research

SAGE Encyclopedia of Action Research

Presented by: David Coghlan

I’m David Coghlan, and I’m from Dublin and I teach at Trinity College Dublin, and I work in the area of action research and published and am on the editorial board of several action research journals.

Some people ask, “What is action research?” well I suppose there are lots of different definitions of action research because action research is a very wide and diffused field of activity. It’s found in businesses and in communities. And each of those settings has its own way of defining, and understanding, and implementing action research. Will then design, implement, and evaluation and action and at the same time reflect on how it’s going and try to generate knowledge out of that particular experience of trying to do, and address that particular issue.

So action research is really about action and research. Most research is about creating knowledge only, but action research in terms suggests is really about trying to get action, achieve change in some pressing kind of issue that a group of people see as being relevant for them. And it’s research with people. So it’s the people who are engaged in who feel the problem or feel the issues are a part of the design and the enactment and the evaluation. So it’s kind of a core research that involves people.

For example, in Norway, a whole region which compromised of local government, a local university, and a local industry working together on regional development; that could involve hundreds and hundreds of people. Or I can think of a group of nurses in a ward or in a particular area of a hospital working together to improve a service. Or I can think of a manager trying to improve or create a new product or improve how a process product is delivered. So this is no shortage of settings and issues on which action research cannot be implement and enacted.

I think this Encyclopedia of Action Research is invaluable because of the diffuse and spread out nature of settings in which action research as undertaken. To actually track down and try to get a picture of the field of action research would involve looking and searching through multiple journals and books. So the Encyclopedia is bringing everything into one place. So all the traditions of action research are represented in terms of how the different philosophies, the different methods, the different settings, and the different biographies of the different people who have shaped it. They’re all together in these two volumes. So this is consolidation not to close it down or tie it up because action research is so dynamic, you could never tie it down, it’s always developing and always changing. It’s a key resource, it’s an essential resource for people who don’t know anything about action research. So they can open the encyclopedia, they can pick up very basic entries and see what these tell them about action research or different aspects of it or different fields within it, or the person who already knows something about action research wants to go into more depth on a particular aspect of it.

So each entry for example, describes syncliticly what aspect of action research is about. It provides links to other entries in the encyclopedia and it also provides a short list of further readings for the reader who wishes to go more deeply into that particular topic.

I suppose I have to admit I’ve never done anything that’s on this scale before.  I mean there’s 316 there about entries in this encyclopedia and I began to find out and learn about parts of action research I’d never heard of, or words I didn’t even recognize because I’m in the organization of action research so I know about action research and organizations whether they’re businesses, health care, education, social work. But action research in indigenous communities who are engaging in action research around issues of social, inclusion, human rights, education, that’s a whole world I was not familiar with. And I really learned so much about that aspect of action research that I didn’t know already.

I’d say this was a long project, very complex. 316 entries and my co-editor and I we initially brought contacted a lot of our friends and a lot of people we know have high expertise in action research, and we asked them to brain storm what the topics should be should be included in this encyclopedia. And we consolidated that list and changed, things came in, things were put out, and then each of those members of our editorial team then they contacted people that they knew and asked them to write entries. And then they worked with those authors who are practitioners as well as scholars in the field and worked with them and editors and helped them write and re-write. And my co-editor, Mary Brydon-Miller, is just a superstar. She’s a leading expert on action research in relation to education, justice, feminism, and has published it out herself. Working with her, because she comes from another aspect of action research than I do, then between the two of us we combined and worked very well together. She’s a loving person and just terrific to work with. And when it was hard over four years, we had great fun, we have become great friends.

This would not have worked without the gracious support from SAGE. Because it’s really SAGE who are taking the lead promoting in promoting action developing action research as its used across the world in business courses, nursing courses, healthcare, social work, education, nursing. And that has been, this would not have happened without really hard work and the foresight of the vision the SAGE have about developing the academic and practicum field of action research.