Action Research

Your constantly-updated definition of Action Research and collection of videos and articles
158 shares

What is Action Research?

Action research is a methodology that emphasizes collaboration between researchers and participants to identify problems, develop solutions and implement changes. Designers plan, act, observe and reflect, and aim to drive positive change in a specific context. Action research prioritizes practical solutions and improvement of practice, unlike knowledge generation, which is the priority of traditional methods. 

A diagram representing action research.

© New Mexico State University, Fair Use

Why is Action Research Important in UX Design?

Action research stands out as a unique approach in user experience design (UX design), among other types of research methodologies and fields. It has a hands-on, practical focus, so UX designers and researchers who engage in it devise and execute research that not only gathers data but also leads to actionable insights and solid real-world solutions. 

The concept of action research dates back to the 1940s, with its roots in the work of social psychologist Kurt Lewin. Lewin emphasized the importance of action in understanding and improving human systems. The approach rapidly gained popularity across various fields, including education, healthcare, social work and community development.  

An image of Kurt Lewin.

Kurt Lewin, the Founder of social psychology.

© Wikimedia Commons, Fair Use

In UX design, the incorporation of action research appeared with the rise of human-centered design principles. As UX design started to focus more on users' needs and experiences, the participatory and problem-solving nature of action research became increasingly significant. Action research bridges the gap between theory and practice in UX design. It enables designers to move beyond hypothetical assumptions and base their design decisions on concrete, real-world data. This not only enhances the effectiveness of the design but also boosts its credibility and acceptance among users—vital bonuses for product designers and service designers. 

At its core, action research is a systematic, participatory and collaborative approach to research. It emphasizes direct engagement with specific issues or problems and aims to bring about positive change within a particular context. Traditional research methodologies tend to focus solely on the generation of theoretical knowledge. Meanwhile, action research aims to solve real-world problems and generate knowledge simultaneously.  

Action research helps designers and design teams gather first-hand insights so they can deeply understand their users' needs, preferences and behaviors. With it, they can devise solutions that genuinely address their users’ problems—and so design products or services that will resonate with their target audiences. As designers actively involve users in the research process, they can gather authentic insights and co-create solutions that are both effective and user-centric.  

Moreover, the iterative nature of action research aligns perfectly with the UX design process. It allows designers to continuously learn from users' feedback, adapt their designs accordingly, and test their effectiveness in real-world contexts. This iterative loop of planning, acting, observing and reflecting ensures that the final design solution is user-centric. However, it also ensures that actual user behavior and feedback validates the solution that a design team produces, which helps to make action research studies particularly rewarding for some brands. 

An image of people around a table.

Designers can continuously learn from users’ feedback in action research and iterate accordingly.

© Fauxels, Fair Use

What is The Action Research Process?

Action research in UX design involves several stages. Each stage contributes to the ultimate goal: to create effective and user-centric design solutions. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the process:  

1. Identify the Problem

This could be a particular pain point users are facing, a gap in the current UX design, or an opportunity for improvement.  

2. Plan the Action

Designers might need to devise new design features, modify existing ones or implement new user interaction strategies.  

3. Implement the Action

Designers put their planned actions into practice. They might prototype the new design, implement the new features or test the new user interaction strategies.  

4. Observe and Collect Data

As designers implement the action they’ve decided upon, it's crucial to observe its effects and collect data. This could mean that designers track user behaviors, collect user feedback, conduct usability tests or use other data collection methods.  

5. Reflect on the Results

From the collected data, designers reflect on the results, analyze the effectiveness of the action and draw insights. If the action has led to positive outcomes, they can further refine it and integrate it into the final design. If not, they can go back to plan new actions and repeat the process.  

An action research example could be where designers do the following: 

  • Identification: Designers observe a high abandonment rate during a checkout process for an e-commerce website. 

  • Planning: They analyze the checkout flow to identify potential friction points.  

  • Action: They isolate these points, streamline the checkout process, introduce guest checkout and optimize form fields.  

  • Observation: They monitor changes in abandonment rates and collect user feedback.  

  • Reflection: They assess the effectiveness of the changes as these reduce checkout abandonment.  

Outcome: The design team notices a significant decrease in checkout abandonment, which leads to higher conversion rates as more users successfully purchase goods.  

What Types of Action Research are there?

Action research splits into three main types: technical, collaborative and critical reflection.  

1. Technical Action Research

Technical action research focuses on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a system or process. Designers often use it in organizational contexts to address specific issues or enhance operations. This could be where designers improve the usability of a website, optimize the load time of an application or enhance the accessibility of a digital product.  

Learn why accessibility is so important in design in this video: 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
 

2. Collaborative Action Research

Collaborative action research emphasizes the active participation of stakeholders in the research process. It's about working together to identify issues, co-create solutions and implement changes. In the context of UX design, this could mean that designers collaborate with users to co-design a new feature, work with developers to optimize a process, or partner with business stakeholders to align the UX strategy with business goals.  

3. Critical Reflection Action Research

Critical reflection action research aims to challenge dominant power structures and social injustices within a particular context. It emphasizes the importance of where designers and design teams reflect on the underlying assumptions and values that drive research and decision-making processes. In UX design, this could be where designers question the design biases, challenge the stereotypes, and promote inclusivity and diversity in design decisions.  

What are the Benefits and Challenges of Action Research?

Like any UX research method or approach, action research comes with its own set of benefits and challenges.  

Benefits of Action Research

Real-world Solutions

Action research focuses on solving real-world problems. This quality makes it highly relevant and practical. It allows UX designers to create solutions that are not just theoretically sound but also valid in real-world contexts.  

User Involvement

Action research involves users in the research process, which lets designers gather first-hand insights into users' needs, preferences and behaviors. This not only enhances the accuracy and reliability of the research but also fosters user engagement and ownership long before user testing of high-fidelity prototypes.  

Continuous Learning

The iterative nature of action research promotes continuous learning and improvement. It enables designers to adapt their designs based on users' feedback and learn from their successes and failures. They can fine-tune better tools and deliverables, such as more accurate user personas, from their findings.

Author and Human-Computer Interaction Expert, Professor Alan Dix explains personas and why they are important: 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
 

Challenges of Action Research

Time- and Resource-intensive

Action research involves multiple iterations of planning, acting, observing and reflecting, which can be time- and resource-intensive. 

Complexity of Real-world Contexts

It can be difficult to implement changes and observe their effects in real-world contexts. This is due to the complexity and unpredictability of real-world situations.  

Risk of Subjectivity

Since action research involves close collaboration with stakeholders, there's a risk of subjectivity and bias influencing the research outcomes. It's crucial for designers to maintain objectivity and integrity throughout the research process. 

Ethical Considerations

It can be a challenge to ensure all participants understand the nature of the research and agree to participate willingly. Also, it’s vital to safeguard the privacy of participants and sensitive data.  

Scope Creep

The iterative nature of action research might lead to expanding goals, and make the project unwieldy.  

Generalizability

The contextual focus of action research may limit the extent to which designers can generalize findings from field studies to other settings.  

Best Practices and Tips for Successful Action Research

1. Define Clear Objectives

To begin, designers should define clear objectives. They should ask the following: 

  • What is the problem to try to solve? 

  • What change is desirable as an outcome?  

To have clear objectives will guide their research process and help them stay focused.  

2. Involve Users

It’s vital to involve users in the research process. Designers should collaborate with them to identify issues, co-create solutions and implement changes in real time. This will not only enhance the relevance of the research but also foster user engagement and ownership.  

3. Use a Variety of Data Collection Methods

To conduct action research means to observe the effects of changes in real-world contexts. This requires a variety of data collection methods. Designers should use methods like surveys, user interviews, observations and usability tests to gather diverse and comprehensive data. 

UX Strategist and Consultant, William Hudson explains the value of usability testing in this video: 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
  

4. Reflect and Learn

Action research is all about learning from action. Designers should reflect on the outcomes of their actions, analyze the effectiveness of their solutions and draw insights. They can use these insights to inform their future actions and continuously improve the design.  

5. Communicate and Share Findings

Lastly, designers should communicate and share their findings with all stakeholders. This not only fosters transparency and trust but also facilitates collective learning and improvement.  

What are Other Considerations to Bear in Mind with Action Research?

Quantitative Data

Action research involves both qualitative and quantitative data, but it's important to remember to place emphasis on qualitative data. While quantitative data can provide useful insights, designers who rely too heavily on it may find a less holistic view of the user experience. 

Professor Alan Dix explains the difference between quantitative and qualitative data in this video: 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
  

User Needs and Preferences

Designers should focus action research on understanding user needs and preferences. If they ignore these in favor of more technical considerations, the resulting design solutions may not meet users' expectations or provide them with a satisfactory experience.  

User Feedback

It's important to seek user feedback at each stage of the action research process. Without this feedback, designers may not optimize design solutions for user needs. For example, they may find the information architecture confusing. Additionally, without user feedback, it can be difficult to identify any unexpected problems that may arise during the research process.  

Time Allocation

Action research requires time and effort to ensure successful outcomes. If designers or design teams don’t permit enough time for the research process, it can lead to rushed decisions and sloppy results. It's crucial to plan ahead and set aside enough time for each stage of the action research process—and ensure that stakeholders understand the time-consuming nature of research and digesting research findings, and don’t push for premature results. 

Contextual Factors

Contextual factors such as culture, environment and demographics play an important role in UX design. If designers ignore these factors, it can lead to ineffective design solutions that don't properly address users' needs and preferences or consider their context.  

Professor Alan Dix explains the need to consider users’ culture in design, in this video: 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
Video copyright info

Copyright holder: Tommi Vainikainen _ Appearance time: 2:56 - 3:03 Copyright license and terms: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Copyright holder: Maik Meid _ Appearance time: 2:56 - 3:03 Copyright license and terms: CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons _ Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Norge_93.jpg

Copyright holder: Paju _ Appearance time: 2:56 - 3:03 Copyright license and terms: CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons _ Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kaivokselan_kaivokset_kyltti.jpg

Copyright holder: Tiia Monto _ Appearance time: 2:56 - 3:03 Copyright license and terms: CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons _ Link: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Turku_-_harbour_sign.jpg

 

Overall, in the ever-evolving field of UX design, this is one methodology that can serve as a powerful research tool for driving positive change and promoting continuous learning. Since to do action research means to actively involve users in the research process and research projects, and focus on real-world problem-solving, it allows designers to create more user-centered designs. These digital solutions and services will be more likely to resonate with the target users and deliver exceptional user experiences.  

Despite its challenges, the benefits of action research far outweigh the risks. Action research is therefore a valuable approach for UX designers who are keen on creating a wide range of impactful and sustainable design solutions. The biggest lesson with action research is to ensure that user needs and preferences are at the center of the research process. 

Learn More about Action Research  

Take our User Research: Methods and Best Practices course.  

Take our Master Class Radical Participatory Design: Insights From NASA’s Service Design Lead with Victor Udoewa, Service Design Lead, NASA SBIR/STTR Program. 

Read more in-depth information in 3 things design thinking can learn from action research by Amin Mojtahedi, PhD

Find additional insights in What Technical Communicators and UX Designers Can Learn From Participatory Action Research by Guiseppe

Discover more insights and tips in Action Research: Steps, Benefits, and Tips by Lauren Stewart.

Questions related to Action Research

How is action research different from design thinking?

Action research and design thinking are both methodologies to solve problems and implement changes, but they have different approaches and emphases. Here's how they differ:  

Objectives  

  • Action research aims to solve specific problems within a community or organization through a cycle of planning, action, observation and reflection. It focuses on iterative learning and solving real-world problems through direct intervention.  

  • Design thinking focuses on addressing complex problems by understanding the user's needs, re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing. It emphasizes innovation and the creation of solutions that are desirable, feasible and viable.  

Process  

  • Action research involves a cyclic process that includes:  

    - Identify a problem.  

    - Plan an action.  

    - Implement the action.  

    - Observe and evaluate the outcomes.  

    - Reflect on the findings and plan the next cycle. 

  • Design thinking follows a non-linear, iterative process that typically includes five phases:  

    - Empathize: Understand the needs of those you're designing for.  

    - Define: Clearly articulate the problem you want to solve.  

    - Ideate: Brainstorm a range of creative solutions.  

    - Prototype: Build a representation of one or more of your ideas.  

    - Test: Return to your original user group and test your idea for feedback.  

User Involvement  

  • Action research actively involves participants in the research process. The participants are co-researchers and have a direct stake in the problem at hand.  

  • Design thinking prioritizes empathy with users and stakeholders to ensure that the solutions are truly user-centered. While users are involved, especially in the empathy and testing phases, they may not be as deeply engaged in the entire process as they are in action research.  

Outcome  

  • Action research typically aims for practical outcomes that directly improve practices or address issues within the specific context studied. Its success is measurable by the extent of problem resolution or improvement.  

  • Design thinking seeks to generate innovative solutions that may not only solve the identified problem but also provide a basis for new products, services or ways of thinking. The success is often measurable in terms of innovation, user satisfaction and feasibility of implementation.  

In summary, while both action research and design thinking are valuable in addressing problems, action research is more about participatory problem-solving within specific contexts, and design thinking is about innovative solution-finding with a strong emphasis on user needs. 

Take our Design Thinking: The Ultimate Guide course. 

    

How do I define the research question in an action research project?

To define the research question in an action research project, start by identifying a specific problem or area of interest in your practice or work setting. Reflect on this issue deeply to understand its nuances and implications. Then, narrow your focus to a question that is both actionable and researchable. This question should aim to explore ways to improve, change or understand the problem better. Ensure the question is clear, concise and aligned with the goals of your project. It must invite inquiry and suggest a path towards finding practical solutions or gaining deeper insights. 

For instance, if you notice a decline in user engagement with a product, your research question could be, "How can we modify the user interface of our product to enhance user engagement?" This question clearly targets an improvement, focuses on a specific aspect (the user interface) and implies actionable outcomes (modifications to enhance engagement). 

Take our Master Class Radical Participatory Design: Insights From NASA’s Service Design Lead with Victor Udoewa, Service Design Lead, NASA SBIR/STTR Program.  

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
 

What are some common tools and methods that designers use in action research?

Designers use several tools and methods in action research to explore problems and implement solutions. Surveys allow them to gather feedback from a broad audience quickly. Interviews offer deep insights through personal conversations, focusing on users' experiences and needs. Observations help designers understand how people interact with products or services in real environments. Prototyping enables the testing of ideas and concepts through tangible models, and allows for immediate feedback and iteration. Finally, case studies provide detailed analysis of specific instances and offer valuable lessons and insights. 

These tools and methods empower designers to collect data, analyze findings and make informed decisions. When designers employ a combination of these approaches, they ensure a comprehensive understanding of the issues at hand and develop effective solutions. 

CEO of Experience Dynamics, Frank Spillers explains the need to be clear about the problem that designers should address: 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
 

How do I engage stakeholders in an action research project?

To engage stakeholders in an action research project, first identify all individuals or groups with an interest in the project's outcome. These might include users, team members, clients or community representatives. Clearly communicate the goals, benefits and expected outcomes of the project to them. Use presentations, reports, or informal meetings to share your vision and how their involvement adds value. 

Involve stakeholders early and often by soliciting their feedback through surveys, interviews or workshops. This inclusion not only provides valuable insights but also fosters a sense of ownership and commitment to the project. Establish regular update meetings or newsletters to keep stakeholders informed about progress, challenges and successes. Finally, ensure there are clear channels for stakeholders to share their input and concerns throughout the project. 

This approach creates a collaborative environment where stakeholders feel valued and engaged, leading to more meaningful and impactful outcomes. 

Author, Speaker and Leadership Coach, Todd Zaki Warfel explains how to present to clients and stakeholders in this video: 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
 

How do I measure the impact of an action research project?

To measure the impact of an action research project, start by defining clear, measurable objectives at the beginning. These objectives should align with the goals of your project and provide a baseline against which you can measure progress. Use quantitative metrics such as increased user engagement, sales growth or improved performance scores for a tangible assessment of impact. Incorporate qualitative data as well, such as user feedback and case studies, to understand the subjective experiences and insights gained through the project. 

Conduct surveys or interviews before and after the project to compare results and identify changes. Analyze this data to assess how well the project met its objectives and what effect it had on the target issue or audience. Document lessons learned and unexpected outcomes to provide a comprehensive view of the project's impact. This approach ensures a holistic evaluation, combining numerical data and personal insights to gauge the success and influence of your action research project effectively. 

Take our Master Class Design KPIs: From Insights to Impact with Vitaly Friedman, Senior UX consultant, European Parliament, and Creative Lead, Smashing Magazine. 

How do I adapt when unexpected results or obstacles emerge during action research?

When unexpected results or obstacles emerge during action research, first, take a step back and assess the situation. Identify the nature of the unexpected outcome or obstacle and analyze its potential impact on your project. This step is crucial for understanding the issue at hand. 

Next, communicate with your team and stakeholders about the situation. Open communication ensures everyone understands the issue and can contribute to finding a solution. 

Then, consider adjusting your research plan or design strategy to accommodate the new findings or to overcome the obstacles. This might involve revisiting your research questions, methods or even the design problem you are addressing. 

Always document these changes and the reasons behind them. This documentation will be valuable for understanding the project's evolution and for future reference. 

Finally, view these challenges as learning opportunities. Unexpected results can lead to new insights and innovations that strengthen your project in the long run. 

By remaining flexible, communicating effectively, and being willing to adjust your approach, you can navigate the uncertainties of action research and continue making progress towards your goals. 

Professor Alan Dix explains externalization, a creative process that can help designers to adapt to unexpected roadblocks and find a good way forward: 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…

In what ways can action research contribute to inclusive and accessible design?

Action research can significantly contribute to inclusive and accessible design by directly involving users with diverse needs in the research and design process. When designers engage individuals from various backgrounds, abilities and experiences, they can gain a deeper understanding of the wide range of user requirements and preferences. This approach ensures that the products or services they develop cater to a broader audience, including those with disabilities. 

Furthermore, action research allows for iterative testing and feedback loops with users. This quality enables designers to identify and address accessibility challenges early in the design process. The continuous engagement helps in refining designs to be more user-friendly and inclusive. 

Additionally, action research fosters a culture of empathy and understanding within design teams, as it emphasizes the importance of seeing the world from the users' perspectives. This empathetic approach leads to more thoughtful and inclusive design decisions, ultimately resulting in products and services that are accessible to everyone. 

By prioritizing inclusivity and accessibility through action research, designers can create more equitable and accessible solutions that enhance the user experience for all. 

Take our Master Class How to Design for Neurodiversity: Inclusive Content and UX with Katrin Suetterlin, UX Content Strategist, Architect and Consultant. 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
 

How do I ensure the reliability and validity of data in action research?

To ensure the reliability and validity of data in action research, follow these steps: 

  • Define clear research questions: Start with specific, clear research questions to guide your data collection. This clarity helps in gathering relevant and focused data. 

  • Use multiple data sources: Collect data from various sources to cross-verify information. This triangulation strengthens the reliability of your findings. 

  • Apply consistent methods: Use consistent data collection methods throughout your research. If conducting surveys or interviews, keep questions consistent across participants to ensure comparability. 

  • Engage in peer review: Have peers or experts review your research design and data analysis. Feedback can help identify biases or errors, and enhance the validity of your findings. 

  • Document the process: Keep detailed records of your research process, including how you collected and analyzed data. Documentation allows others to understand and validate your research methodology. 

  • Test and refine instruments: If you’re using surveys or assessment tools, test them for reliability and validity before using them extensively. Pilot testing helps refine these instruments, and ensures they accurately measure what they intend to. 

When you adhere to these principles, you can enhance the reliability and validity of your action research data, leading to more trustworthy and impactful outcomes. 

Take our Data-Driven Design: Quantitative Research for UX course.  

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
 

How does one analyze data collected during an action research project?

To analyze data collected during an action research project, follow these steps: 

  • Organize the data: Begin by organizing your data, categorizing information based on types, sources or research questions. This organization makes the data manageable and prepares you for in-depth analysis. 

  • Identify patterns and themes: Look for patterns, trends and themes within your data. This might mean to code qualitative data or use statistical tools for quantitative data to uncover recurring elements or significant findings. 

  • Compare findings to objectives: Match your findings against the research objectives. Assess how the data answers your research questions or addresses the issues you set out to explore. 

  • Use software tools: Consider using data analysis software, especially for complex or large data sets. Tools like NVivo for qualitative data or SPSS for quantitative data can simplify analysis and help in identifying insights. 

  • Draw conclusions: Based on your analysis, draw conclusions about what the data reveals. Look for insights that answer your research questions or offer solutions to the problem you are investigating. 

  • Reflect and act: Reflect on the implications of your findings. Consider how they impact your understanding of the research problem and what actions they suggest for improvement or further investigation. 

This approach to data analysis ensures a thorough understanding of the collected data, allowing you to draw meaningful conclusions and make informed decisions based on your action research project. 

Professor Ann Blandford, Professor of Human-Computer Interaction, UCL explains valuable aspects of data collection in this video: 

Show Hide video transcript
  1. Transcript loading…
 

 What are some highly cited scientific articles about the subject of action research?
  1. Baskerville, R. L., & Wood-Harper, A. T. (1996). A critical perspective on action research as a method for information systems research. Journal of Information Technology, 11(3), 235-246.   

This influential paper examines the philosophical underpinnings of action research and its application in information systems research, which is closely related to UX design. It highlights the strengths of action research in addressing complex, real-world problems, as well as the challenges in maintaining rigor and achieving generalizability. The paper helped establish action research as a valuable methodology in the information systems and UX design fields.  

  1. Di Mascio, T., & Tarantino, L. (2015). New Design Techniques for New Users: An Action Research-Based Approach. In Proceedings of the 17th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction with Mobile Devices and Services Adjunct (pp. 83-96). ACM. 

This paper describes an action research project that aimed to develop a novel data gathering technique for understanding the context of use of a technology-enhanced learning system for children. The authors argue that traditional laboratory experiments struggle to maintain relevance to the real world, and that action research, with its focus on solving practical problems, is better suited to addressing the needs of new ICT products and their users. The paper provides insights into the action research process and reflects on its value in defining new methods for solving complex, real-world problems. The work is influential in demonstrating the applicability of action research in the field of user experience design, particularly for designing for new and underserved user groups. 

  1. Villari, B. (2014). Action research approach in design research. In Proceedings of the 5th STS Italia Conference A Matter of Design: Making Society through Science and Technology (pp. 306-316). STS Italia Publishing.  

This paper explores the application of action research in the field of design research. The author argues that design is a complex practice that requires interdisciplinary skills and the ability to engage with diverse communities. Action research is presented as a research strategy that can effectively merge theory and practice, linking the reflective dimension to practical activities. The key features of action research highlighted in the paper are its context-dependent nature, the close relationship between researchers and the communities involved, and the iterative process of examining one's own practice and using research insights to inform future actions. The paper is influential in demonstrating the value of action research in addressing the challenges of design research, particularly in terms of bridging the gap between theory and practice and fostering collaborative, user-centered approaches to design.  

  1. Brandt, E. (2004). Action research in user-centred product development. AI & Society, 18(2), 113-133.  

This paper reports on the use of action research to introduce new user-centered work practices in two commercial product development projects. The author argues that the growing complexity of products and the increasing importance of quality, usability, and customization demand new collaborative approaches that involve customers and users directly in the development process. The paper highlights the value of using action research to support these new ways of working, particularly in terms of creating and reifying design insights in representations that can foster collaboration and continuity throughout the project. The work is influential in demonstrating the applicability of action research in the context of user-centered product development, where the need to bridge theory and practice and engage diverse stakeholders is paramount. The paper provides valuable insights into the practical challenges and benefits of adopting action research in this domain. 

What are some highly regarded books about action research?

1. Reason, P., & Bradbury, H. (Eds.). (2001). Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice. SAGE Publications.  

This comprehensive handbook is considered a seminal work in the field of action research. It provides a thorough overview of the history, philosophical foundations, and diverse approaches to action research. The book features contributions from leading scholars and practitioners, covering topics such as participatory inquiry, critical action research, and the role of action research in organizational change and community development. It has been highly influential in establishing action research as a rigorous and impactful research methodology across various disciplines. 

 2. Stringer, E. T. (2013). Action Research (4th ed.). SAGE Publications.  

This book by Ernest T. Stringer is a widely recognized and accessible guide to conducting action research. It provides clear, step-by-step instructions on the action research process, including gathering information, interpreting and explaining findings, and taking action to address practical problems. The book is particularly valuable for novice researchers and practitioners in fields such as education, social work, and community development, where action research is commonly applied. Its practical approach and real-life examples have made it a go-to resource for those seeking to engage in collaborative, solution-oriented research. 

3. McNiff, J. (2017). Action Research: All You Need to Know (1st ed.). SAGE Publications.   

This book by Jean McNiff provides a comprehensive guide to conducting action research projects. It covers the key steps of the action research process, including identifying a problem, developing an action plan, implementing changes, and reflecting on the outcomes. The book is influential in the field of action research as it offers practical advice and strategies for practitioners across various disciplines, such as education, healthcare, and organizational development. It emphasizes the importance of critical reflection, collaboration, and the integration of theory and practice, making it a valuable resource for those seeking to engage in rigorous, transformative research. 

Answer a Short Quiz to Earn a Gift

Question 1

What is a primary characteristic of action research in UX design?

1 point towards your gift

Question 2

Which type of action research improves system efficiency and effectiveness?

1 point towards your gift

Question 3

What role do stakeholders play in collaborative action research?

1 point towards your gift

Question 4

How do users in action research benefit the design process?

1 point towards your gift

Question 5

What is the purpose of the reflection stage in the action research process?

1 point towards your gift

Better luck next time!

0 out of 5 questions answered correctly

Do you want to improve your UX / UI Design skills? Join us now

Congratulations! You did amazing

5 out of 5 questions answered correctly

You earned your gift with a perfect score! Let us send it to you.

Letter from IxDF

Check Your Inbox

We’ve emailed your gift to name@email.com.

Do you want to improve your UX / UI Design skills? Join us now

Literature on Action Research

Here’s the entire UX literature on Action Research by the Interaction Design Foundation, collated in one place:

Learn more about Action Research

Take a deep dive into Action Research with our course User Research – Methods and Best Practices .

How do you plan to design a product or service that your users will love, if you don't know what they want in the first place? As a user experience designer, you shouldn't leave it to chance to design something outstanding; you should make the effort to understand your users and build on that knowledge from the outset. User research is the way to do this, and it can therefore be thought of as the largest part of user experience design.

In fact, user research is often the first step of a UX design process—after all, you cannot begin to design a product or service without first understanding what your users want! As you gain the skills required, and learn about the best practices in user research, you’ll get first-hand knowledge of your users and be able to design the optimal product—one that’s truly relevant for your users and, subsequently, outperforms your competitors’.

This course will give you insights into the most essential qualitative research methods around and will teach you how to put them into practice in your design work. You’ll also have the opportunity to embark on three practical projects where you can apply what you’ve learned to carry out user research in the real world. You’ll learn details about how to plan user research projects and fit them into your own work processes in a way that maximizes the impact your research can have on your designs. On top of that, you’ll gain practice with different methods that will help you analyze the results of your research and communicate your findings to your clients and stakeholders—workshops, user journeys and personas, just to name a few!

By the end of the course, you’ll have not only a Course Certificate but also three case studies to add to your portfolio. And remember, a portfolio with engaging case studies is invaluable if you are looking to break into a career in UX design or user research!

We believe you should learn from the best, so we’ve gathered a team of experts to help teach this course alongside our own course instructors. That means you’ll meet a new instructor in each of the lessons on research methods who is an expert in their field—we hope you enjoy what they have in store for you!

All open-source articles on Action Research

Please check the value and try again.

Open Access—Link to us!

We believe in Open Access and the democratization of knowledge. Unfortunately, world-class educational materials such as this page are normally hidden behind paywalls or in expensive textbooks.

If you want this to change, , link to us, or join us to help us democratize design knowledge!

Share Knowledge, Get Respect!

Share on:

or copy link

Cite according to academic standards

Simply copy and paste the text below into your bibliographic reference list, onto your blog, or anywhere else. You can also just hyperlink to this page.

Interaction Design Foundation - IxDF. (2016, September 13). What is Action Research?. Interaction Design Foundation - IxDF.

New to UX Design? We’re Giving You a Free ebook!

The Basics of User Experience Design

Download our free ebook The Basics of User Experience Design to learn about core concepts of UX design.

In 9 chapters, we’ll cover: conducting user interviews, design thinking, interaction design, mobile UX design, usability, UX research, and many more!

A valid email address is required.
313,619 designers enjoy our newsletter—sure you don’t want to receive it?