There is a growing interest in planning research approaches which are able to directly impact on practice and improve the real world. Action-research is a technique applicable by researchers that has the "peculiarity" of addressing knowledge production as well as social/economic/ physical changes at the same time. In planning in particular, it often assumes the appearance of participatory planning and/or design and/or self-construction processes. Action-research is a very promising but also a highly misunderstood approach as it is either wrongly considered a research method or confused with other forms of engaged research. In planning specifically, due to the collaborative nature of its theoretical foundations, action-research is often confused with participatory planning and criticised with the same arguments. Its written outcomes are very often evaluated with criteria that are simply inappropriate to its theoretical foundations.
In order to enhance the discussion on quality criteria to be used by action-research publications, Laura Saija in her article Writing about Engaged Scholarship: Misunderstandings on and the issue of "quality" Action Research publications, discusses the nature of action-research and the way this approach is often misunderstood.
"Action research narratives cannot be evaluated within old paradigms -- says Saija -- , "and readers cannot expect from them some kind of general and/or universal knowledge. Unlike manuals, guidelines, normative and prescriptive theories, action research narratives are not the main link between scientific knowledge and professional practice; such a link is the action research process itself. Therefore […] action research narratives cannot be criticized if they do not provide general or universal indications to practitioners. In reality they should be criticized if they do."
Enriching the debate around the quality of action research writings, the author discusses the theoretical foundations of action research, and explores the misconceptions surrounding it. The author suggests criteria for assessing such publications; focusing on a broader goal to enhance the capacity of action researchers' writings to contribute to a broader debate on the capacity of planning research.
- Laura Saija. Writing about engaged scholarship: Misunderstandings and the meaning of “quality” in action research publications. Planning Theory & Practice, 2014; 15 (2): 187 DOI: 10.1080/14649357.2014.904922
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