Organizational Management & Problem-Solving Methods

Subject: Organizational Management
Pages: 5
Words: 1407
Reading time:
6 min
Study level: PhD

Critical Literature Review


Action research can be described as the study of the forces that lead to professional and social changes in an organization. The process of action research can be thought of as the methodological and meditative study of the actions of individuals in an organization as well as their effects (Eden & Huxham, 1996). Consequently, it requires deeper investigation into an individual professional practice. Action research is determined by a variety of models that are applied in a variety of dimensions that can have been described as a collection of action research techniques (Brannick & Coghlan, 2007). Action researchers tend to “analyze their interactions and functions, which are both in social and professional contexts with the intention of seeking opportunities for improvement” (Eden & Huxham, 1996, p. 70). They pursue data from various sources, which help them to carry out analyses. For an effective action study, they examine evidence from multiple sources to effectively assess the actions taken (Eden & Huxham, 1996). Through data collected from interactions with other scholars, action researchers must engage in critical study explorations and reflections so that plans can benefit from retrospective observations and lessons.

A critical review

Brannick and Coghlan (2007) posit that when it comes to academic insider research, little attention has been given. In most cases, outsiders with limited understanding of specific organizational dynamics adopt theoretical assumptions (Brannick & Coghlan, 2007). They propose that for action research to be effective, it should be carried out by the members of organizations since they are best suited for the reflective part of research. For the insider action research to be successful, they propose any one of three research paradigms, i.e., positivism, hermeneutics, and the action research should be utilized (Greenwood, Whyte & Harkavy, 1993). Many paradigms are used to determine the impact they may have on practical action research. After considering them, researchers can make conclusions that can lead to positive impacts on business establishments in the short-term and long-term (Coghlan, 2001). In the contemporary organizational settings, there is a considerable shift from being product-centered to being people-centered. Organizations recognize that their human resources are key in determining how effective they will be in terms of productivity. Therefore, they tend to focus more on motivating personnel and creating an enabling environment (Brannick & Coghlan, 2007). This way, they would be more innovative. At the end of the day, productivity levels would improve along with worker retention.

For the “better part of the last 70 years, many studies have been conducted on the divergent actions that are taken into consideration during action research” (Cassell & Johnson, 2006, p. 800). It is suggested that the diversity is not hazardous, and scholars should be very cautious in relation to adopting all-inclusive philosophical strategies (Cassell & Johnson, 2006). The diversity in research is inspired by varying philosophical ideologies that speculate on the subject and, consequently, fuel a considerable ambiguity. Several authors attempt to identify the various philosophical underpinnings that lead to the constitution of various types of action research. In terms of variation, the objective of action research, according to Cassell and Johnson (2006), is to conceptualize the distinctive actions of researchers and practitioners using the criteria deployed in examining emerging internal tensions (Greenwood et al., 1993). Therefore, should there be a need to carry out action research, it would be important to use the ideas of Coghlan and Brannick and apply the models of positivism, hermeneutics, and action research (Zuber-Skerritt & Perry, 2002). This way, a scholar would effectively adopt theoretical perceptions, which can be combined with insider research to increase the level of objectivity. This way, both theoretical and retrospective practical knowledge can be applied in studying organizational dynamics, which would result in a more expansive and objective perspective (Coghlan, 2001). In my organization, for example, I have found that a significant number of personnel is afraid to contribute ideas and speak openly to managers and supervisors. This is an excellent situation where I can apply action research since it will help me understand both the personal and organizational challenges that contribute to the overall problem. To implement this, the first step will be to critically study literature on the subject and carry out a literature review on methods of action research that I should apply. However, as aforementioned, the quality of research that has been carried out on the subject is diminutive, so I am aware of the fact that I may have to do many qualitative and quantitative studies, which will involve interacting with staff as well as leaders in other organizations. In addition to applying knowledge in action research, I will engage workers in internal research by asking them to fill questionnaires and to carry out one-on-one interviews to get their feedback on the trend. I will do this as part of a team building exercise away from the work environment so that I can use time and freedom to encourage interactions that are more open-ended. I could also request they form committees and teams, which they should use to give feedback about their challenges and needs as well as how they think that their organizations should treat them. With all the information gathered from the interactions as well as the theoretical content about action research, I will be in a position to understand the challenges in the workplace, and propose a solution from an action-centered and all-inclusive perspective.


In conclusion, the critical literature review in this paper has demonstrated that firms face a number of organizational challenges. It is clear that scholars adopt different approaches to solving issues in the workplace. Despite the understanding that action research is a critical part of work-based practice, implementing it is a very challenging task, especially from an insider point of view.

Answers to the questions

One of the challenges I am likely to encounter is to convince personnel that this research is the most viable line of action. This is due to the fact that, to many of them, research is a complex process that requires people to perpetually re-examine their actions and reflect on them. While this may be effective when dealing with individual departments, it could result in very divergent ideas with each employee focusing on his or her issues without necessarily taking into account those of colleagues. In some cases, reflection on insider action research can result in increased subjectivity, which may jeopardize the quality of results. Cassel and Johnson (2006) argue that by using relevant literature, researchers should conceptualize their actions within the fields of social science and the roles of active researchers in relation to the members of an organization should be identified (Evered & Louis, 1981). This way, they can apply already existing knowledge from a variety of scientific fields to examine internal tensions that influence the performance levels of an organization (Cassel & Johnson, 2006). For example, action research can borrow from the fields of sociology and psychology, and use the knowledge and skills to understand the behavior of personnel and come up with strategies of motivating them. Consider a case study where an organization dealing with oil and gas provision has been facing the challenge of employee retention among its intellectual staff. This is a team of scholars attached to the organization whose core duty is to carry out studies on innovations, which are used to support over 120,000 technical staff. However, the managers realize that the level of attrition among the scholars is very high, despite their efforts to motivate all workers. According to “the hierarchy of needs by Abraham Maslow, people are driven by motivations to work” (Greenwood et al., 1993, p. 190). What works for an individual at one level of the Maslow’s pyramid may not work for someone else at a different level. The scholars would not be motivated through financial rewards or other extrinsic factors for the reasons that they do not work for the sake of the financial reward nor are they driven by extrinsic factors, such as pressure. They are operating at near the top of Maslow’s pyramid. They are seeking actualization, which can only be attained through coming up with innovations. Therefore, pressuring them only distracts them and increases their chances of leaving the firm since they prefer to work in autonomous settings. Therefore, the management should adopt different methods of motivating workers within the organization so that performance outcomes can improve in the short-term and long-term.


Brannick, T., & Coghlan, D. (2007). In defense of being “native”: The case for insider academic research. Organizational research methods, 10(1), 59-74.

Cassell, C., & Johnson, P. (2006). Action research: Explaining the diversity.Human Relations, 59(6), 783-814.

Coghlan, D. (2001). Insider Action Research Projects Implications for Practising Managers. Management Learning, 32(1), 49-60.

Eden, C., & Huxham, C. (1996). Action research for management research. British Journal of Management, 7(1), 75-86.

Evered, R., & Louis, M. R. (1981). Alternative perspectives in the organizational sciences:“Inquiry from the inside” and “inquiry from the outside”. Academy of management review, 6(3), 385-395.

Greenwood, D. J., Whyte, W. F., & Harkavy, I. (1993). Participatory action research as a process and as a goal. Human Relations, 46(2), 175-192.

Zuber-Skerritt, O., & Perry, C. (2002). Action research within organisations and university thesis writing. Learning Organization, 9(4), 171-179.