Action Research ‘in the Making’: Reflections on Conversations with Action Researchers

Nina Boulus, Pernille Bjørn

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterConference abstract in proceedingsResearch


Action-oriented research has increasingly become of great interest to Science and Technology Studies (STS). In this paper, we reflect upon a fairly recent STS literature discussing the emergence of action-oriented research and its impact on research practices, and contrast this with our own experiences conducting action research on technology implementations in a health care setting.

We will engage in critical discussions on the complex, and at times conflicting, methodological issues that are faced when conducting such research. Action research transforms not only the researcher’s role but also the boundaries between the researcher and the participants in the study, bringing along new epistemological challenges. In such a complex and fluid landscape, the researcher’s role, the participant’s role and the research focus constantly evolve, and in this paper we discuss how this has an impact on our own stance towards action-oriented research. We will capture the way in which our views on action research evolved as we gradually became more critical and circumspect towards our own roles and research practices.

We will scrutinize our research process ‘in the making’ and articulate how we continuously reconstructed our roles and practices as the research unfolded. To do so, we follow a self- reflexive and critical epistemological stance, and reflect upon our experiences of actively participating in the implementation of a technology while simultaneously studying it. The two authors of this paper are both part of a larger Canadian research project, while each of us is involved in a separate action research collaboration with local community partners. One study takes place in a community health care centre and the other takes place in a children’s emergency department in a hospital. Throughout our research, we had many ongoing discussions about our experiences, and began exchanging the strategies we developed to deal with the complexities and challenges faced in the field. We gradually noticed that each of us was so immersed in the field that we feared being unable to step out of the context and reflect on our roles and interventions. We therefore decided to critically challenge each other’s practice as action researchers, and conducted several interviews with each other to capture our methodological discussions and how our positions towards action research transformed along the way. For the purpose of this paper, we will use these interviews, together with the ongoing memos we kept to encapsulate reflections of our experiences from the fieldwork, as well as copies of email communication we had with our community partners. This data will be used to generate thick descriptions and track the trajectories of the research collaborations, and our roles and positions during the course of the studies.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST)/Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)
Number of pages2
Publication date2008
Publication statusPublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes
EventSociety for Social Studies of Science (4S) 30th Conference: European Association for the Study of Science and Technology (EASST) - Rotterdam, Netherlands
Duration: 20 Aug 200823 Aug 2008
Conference number: 30th


ConferenceSociety for Social Studies of Science (4S) 30th Conference
Internet address


  • Action-oriented research
  • Science and Technology Studies (STS)
  • Methodological issues
  • Health care technology implementation
  • Self-reflexive research


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