Action research and the transformation of knowledge creation

Purpose: To provide an introduction to action research.

Description: Action research “brings together action and reflection, theory and practice, in participation with others, in pursuit of practical solutions to issues of pressing concern to people” (Reason and Bradbury 2001, p.1).

Action research is not based in objectification, conquering nature or simply describing reality, but is about partnership with others, making something meaningful happen that stakeholders together have decided needs to happen, and bringing reflexivity to that process.

Provides a brief history of action research and how it complements conventional social science.

Describes three categories of action research, with an example of each:

  • 2nd person action research is the most familiar and involves work with ‘you.’ It is conducted face to face in small groups emphasising learning together.
  • 3rd person action research is for ‘them.’ This refers to action research that moves through populous networks and/or work made widely available through publication and peer review because it has the potential to inform other distant efforts.
  • 1st person action research is for ‘me.’ It refers to action research with the self that hones self-insight and capacity for choiceful action. It situates the self as an instrument of understanding and change, committed to self-development.

The focus in action research now is on bringing these approaches together.

Video: “Action Research and the Transformation of Knowledge Creation” presented by Hilary Bradbury-Huang was a plenary talk at the First Global Conference on Research Integration and Implementation held in Canberra in Australia, online and at three co-conferences (Lueneburg in Germany, The Hague in the Netherlands and Montevideo in Uruguay), 8-11 September 2013. The Microsoft PowerPoint presentation from the video is available as a  PDF (3.3MB). Video (33 minutes) is available on the Integration and Implementation Sciences (i2S) YouTube channel at or see the end of this page for the embedded video.

Reason, P. and Bradbury, H. (2001). ‘Introduction: Inquiry and Participation in Search of a World Worthy of Human Aspiration’. In, P. Reason and H. Bradbury (Eds.), Handbook of Action Research: Participative Inquiry and Practice. Sage: London, United Kingdom, pp 1-14.

Posted: November 2014
Last modified: November 2021