Action Research for Business, Nonprofit, & Public Administration: A Tool for Complex Times


E. Alana James, Tracesea Slater & Alan Bucknam

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    This book is written for the graduate student who has struggled with bridging the theory of action research (AR) to the practice of how to complete a project. Having taught AR to students in business, nonprofit, and public administration for a doctorate of management program, we saw several challenges that they regularly faced:

    • Becoming lost and wasting precious time, causing them to struggle at the end,
    • Approaching AR as though it was another form of research, most usually qualitative,
    • Missing the point of achieving measurable outcomes,
    • Not delving deeply into reflection or reflexion and therefore learning nothing about their own culpability in the process,
    • Accomplishing fantastic outcomes yet not bridging the gap to write them as research and, therefore, not getting their work published.

    Quoting one of our students, “When I learn a new skill, I like a cookbook.” This text answers that need, giving recipes for both basic and advanced practices. The purpose of this book is to guide graduate students in business, nonprofit, and public administration toward successful completion of research projects. We believe that, with that success, they will choose to use AR on an ongoing basis to make their personal and professional worlds mirror their vision.

    First and foremost, this is written for either masters or doctoral-level students in business, nonprofit, or public administration. The courses in which it should be adopted are those that range from beginning research to the specific use of AR in the field. Beginning researchers will find solid basic methodological writing that will help them make choices for class-level projects. Advanced students, or those choosing to use AR for dissertations will find the necessary citations and links to seminal literature that they need to ensure academic rigor. Having mentored doctoral students using AR, who were helpful in outlining elements missing from other texts, we feel confident that this book fills those gaps.

    Because this book is meant to be a companion to theoretical texts such as Reason and Bradbury (2008), the major content area discussions within the field of AR are interwoven as the concepts impact practice. These include but are not limited to: reflection and reflexivity, complexity science, the logic of failure, emancipatory research potential, networked AR, and democracy as evident and pertaining to working in groups. Professors or instructors who may be new to teaching AR will find clear guidelines for proposal writing, informed consent documentation, graphic organizers to help students manage their practice, and a protocol for weekly report writing to structure final analysis.

    Our students stated that they needed both in-depth discussion and a ways and means to search the text easily when they needed to answer a question. To this end, you will find six chapters that address the different stages of writing an AR proposal (Chapter 2), beginning a project (Chapter 3), designing and obtaining measurements for ongoing actions (Chapter 4), working with people and groups (Chapter 5), doing AR in networked environments (Chapter 6), and finally, analyzing results and writing the final report (Chapter 7). The chapter subheadings are in the form of questions, allowing students to quickly find information when it is needed. All sections end with reflective questions aimed at helping students develop an ongoing reflective and reflexive practice. Every chapter ends with next steps and additional readings to help them dig deeper into the rich literature that surrounds this methodology. The book's design is approachable to all forms and levels of learning, including regular use of pictures, stories, pullouts, and illustrations to capture interest and foster understanding.

    A textbook such as this is not a lone act. We need to acknowledge the input received from our reviewers. Because they plan to adopt the book in the courses they teach, the reviewers increased the specificity of small details that they suggested we include. This provided an immeasurable benefit when it came to fine-tuning, and it is with heartfelt thanks that we acknowledge:

    • Jan Arsenault, New England College
    • Edwin D. Bell, Winston Salem State University
    • Hilary Bradbury Huang, USC
    • Colleen Casey, University of Texas at Arlington
    • Paul L. Dann, New England College
    • Martha H. Ezzell, Ph.D., Carlow University
    • Jessica Heineman-Pieper, George Mason University
    • Elisabeth Hiles, Boston College
    • Melissa Houlett, College of Mount St. Joseph
    • Gherissi Labben Thouraya, École Hôtelière de Lausanne
    • Marco Tavanti, DePaul University


    Welcome to Action Research for Business, Nonprofits, and Public Administration: A Tool for Complex Times. This book is primarily a textbook for masters and doctorate-level students, although we hope that you will find it so helpful that you will keep it on your bookshelf and continue to engage in the practice of AR long after you finish the course you are in. AR can become a way of life because of the power it offers us as practitioners. Working the steps and the cycles keeps several things that are very important to strategic planning and change management in the forefront of our brains. High among these are the requirement to continually delve into the literature of our fields, to take action steps while measuring their outcomes as we go, and finally to develop ourselves as reflective and reflexive practitioners.

    A person has only to read the twitter streams searching for action research to get a taste of the confusion students often feel when faced with actually doing the process. Our own students are equally confused after a semester of AR theory. It is for this reason that we wrote this book, aimed at helping you, the student practitioner, easily maneuver through three cycles and processes required of you as you complete what may be your first graduate level research project.

    After reading Chapters 1 through 3 of this book, we hear statements like the following:

    • Why didn't we have this book last quarter? It would have made AR understandable and clear!
    • This really put into perspective what AR is and how it can be applied.
    • I like the clarity and simplicity of the writing. Very focused and on target for the reader.

    As one of our students commented, “When I learn a new skill, I like a cookbook.” While perhaps more than a cookbook, we hope that we have kept true to the purpose of helping you directly complete the work while not getting caught in our own love of the process and its intricacies too much. Because we want this to be a book that lives on a bookshelf in your business, nonprofit, or public administration office long after you finish this course, we have also included Chapters 5, 6, and 8, which should also be useful to your continuing process as a leader in your work environment.

    Professors and others who are well versed in AR literature will notice that the way we describe the process is atypical from the four-step cycle commonly referred to. The change to a measurable action step is to help you get over two hurdles where we saw many students break down. In the old four-part discussion, you might have been tempted to either measure every possible thing about your current situation but never stray into taking actionable steps toward positive change. Equally probable would be the reverse, where you might take lots of positive moving forward actions but not capture them adequately with data. It is our hope that our three-part cycle of discovery, measurable action, and reflection—where discovery is used for a review of literature, measurable action is where you get the work done and collect your data, and reflection where you capture your reflective and reflexive data—will keep your project both moving forward and in line with standard research practices, allowing your work to be more easily published.

    This book is intended therefore, to be practical, straightforward, and full of examples. It is written in a style that allows you to both read it cover to cover or dive in and out of it as your process requires. The book is formatted with wide margins, lots of pictures, easy callouts of important information, and so on to meet the demands of busy businesspeople in the 21st century. We did not include an extensive conversation about any of the particular theoretical issues that are widely discussed within the AR community. We hope, however, that we include enough citations and references to those conversations that you can easily follow an interest area to the source material.

    A quick road map through this book will show you that Chapters 1, 2, and 3 should give you a firm basis of understanding and the ability to both design and begin to implement an AR project. Chapter 4 helps you understand how you might marry AR to basic qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods design as you go forward in your project with some measurable actions. Chapter 5 discusses the skills and issues inherent in working as part of a participatory group or with other people in general. Chapter 6 goes into the specifics needed to employ AR over a large area, as part of a network, or in some other extended environment. Chapter 7 takes you through a basic analysis and helps you write a solid final report, depending upon the needs of your stakeholders. The last chapter contains final comments from other professors around the world, our own students, and ourselves. Finally, we include four appendices with practical tools aimed to help establish good practices from the beginning. Included are: a sample outline for an AR proposal, the protocol we use for weekly AR reflections, the layout for an AR table of measurable actions, and a facilitation guide for those wanting to implement a large-scale networked participatory action research project (NPAR).

    We close this introduction with a post taken from the SAGE action research blog ( We believe Melissa captures much of the heart and soul of AR and why we love this process. We hope that, at the end of your foray into this methodological environment, you do too. Also please visit our site at where you will find additional and ancillary materials for this book.

    Sincerely, your authors,

    E.Alana, Tracesea, and Alan

    Dear Action Research,

    I have a confession: I can't get you off my mind.

    I first learned about you, Action Research, a year ago through a fellow graduate student. She pointed you out to me on the course register, and I was immediately smitten. But, circumstances being what they were, I wasn't able to pursue you. So I waited, pining from afar, never allowing myself to entertain the thought of us being together. In the meantime, I tried to see other research methodologies. Some of them briefly held my interest, but they always turned out to be cold and aloof. Several of them even warned me about you. “Don't waste your time with Action Research,” they said. “People will laugh at you,” they said. And I believed them.

    But never fully. When the opportunity arose, I signed up for a class that would allow me to get to know you better. I won't lie. My guard was up. At this point, I had heard so many contradicting things about you that my initial infatuation had become tarnished by wariness. You were so hard to pin down at first. The professor and my fellow students were constantly defining you by what you aren't rather than by what you are. Not empirical. Not generalizable. Not objective. I began to wonder if I'd ever be able to see you for who you truly are.

    Gradually, you began to come into focus, and the skepticism I had carried with me into our relationship faded. I couldn't help but let our interactions get personal, which went against every prior experience I had ever had with research. In the past, when I had allowed myself to be human with respect to my research, other methodologies had rejected me outright. One even dumped me on the spot, saying that my honesty was not just unprofessional but unethical. The experience broke me.

    But, Action Research, you accepted me. I know it sounds corny, but I'd never met a methodology like you before. Your willingness to see people (both subjects and researchers alike) as complex and dynamic beings has given me hope. I admire your ability to adapt to every situation without losing sight of your values.

    Yet, there are still moments when I feel alienated from you. Action Research, you remain wrapped up in this swath of intellectual elitism, perhaps because you know that, if you step too far from the ivory tower, you'll have to work that much harder to prove yourself. So long as you have your publications and legions of well-educated followers, like the other research methodologies you must stand amongst, you will be safe. But, if you're really striving for justice, understanding, and a revolution in how we produce and disseminate knowledge, then put aside your insecurities. Do the soul searching you've asked me to do, and you may find that academia is your birthplace but perhaps not where you were meant to end up.

    I hope things work out between us. Sometimes, after we've spent time together, I'm left with this euphoric feeling that I can barely contain. I get butterflies, and for a moment, I believe that all my naive, idealistic ambitions really can be realized. But then, I begin to wonder. Is this just a crush? Just some fleeting infatuation that will eventually crumble under the unbearable disappointment that descends when I realize that something I thought I loved was too good to be true?

    Yours for now,

  • Appendix A. Action Research Proposal Outline


    Formulate a one-sentence answer for each question, and then combine them into one paragraph.

    • What is the purpose of your research?
    • What is the context of this problem?
    • What is the scope of this research? How many people, departments, and so on, will be measured or affected?
    • How many AR cycles of discovery, measurable action, and reflection were included?
    • What research questions do you hope to answer?
    • What outcomes do you hope to effect with your actions?
    • Who are the stakeholders for your project?
    • What limitations exist?
    • What contribution do you expect this research to make to yourself, your company, and your field?
    Action Research Proposal

    Write two to three paragraphs on the context of the problem. Include literature citations as appropriate. Back up your ideas whenever possible with data. Cite and reference all data sources.

    Local Context

    Write two to three paragraphs explaining the local context. Help the reader understand the issues as experienced locally, as well as the importance of the research. Back up the explanations with citations and references from the literature. Use data to quantify your ideas, and cite and reference data sources.

    Personal Context

    Write two to six paragraphs describing your relationship to and part in this research. Answer the following questions:

    • What is your relationship to the organization where you will be conducting the research?
    • What permissions are needed for data collection and analysis? From whom do you need to get permission? Have you already collected those permissions?
    • Will the change you hope to effect be better served with the ongoing support of a team? If so, will you be gathering a team to conduct PAR? If so, describe the composition of your team, their roles, how often they will meet, and a timeline for the completion of the project.
    • Describe your personal history in relation to the issue you will be studying and, if a PAR project, your personal history with the other participants.
    Gaps in Knowledge

    Describe the gaps you hope this research will fill in your local context:

    • What gaps in knowledge exist?
    • What gaps in activity exist between knowledge and action?
    Research Questions

    List one to four questions you would like to begin to answer:

    • What new information is needed?
    • What new data is needed?
    • What new types of actions are needed?
    Research Methodology

    Insert a beginning paragraph about the proven efficacy of AR, and then answer the following questions under subheadings relating to each step in the cycle. Each section will likely be three to eight paragraphs with citations and references from the literature, data from your local context, and explanations as appropriate.

    • What discovery questions do you need answered prior to taking action toward your desired outcomes?
      • What data will be examined?
    • What research will be needed, and what tools will be used?
      • What other sources of data may be required, and how will they be gathered?
    Measurable Actions
    • Describe the purpose of your measurable actions.
      • What do you hope to accomplish? (To what extent does this accomplishment need to impact humans?)
    • What archival data exists, and how will you secure access or permission to use it?
    • What baseline data is needed, how do you plan to gather it, and from whom?
    • What stakeholders will need to be considered?
      • What forms of data will be most convincing to them?
    • Will there be a population from whom you may have to collect data in order to show relative efficacy of your action steps? If so, how will you take steps to include a representative sample?
      • Who, if anyone, will be employed to help determine the efficacy of your data collection and analysis of your action steps?
    • Describe your reflective tools.
      • How often and under what circumstances will you employ them?
    • Who, if anyone, will be employed to help determine the efficacy of your reflections?
    • How will you record the cycles and your determination of next steps?
    Ethical Assurances
    • Who will be included as subjects?
    • In what manner will their data be gathered and recorded?
    • How will you ensure confidentiality of their responses?
    • How will you ensure the safety of your data?
    • What are the risks and benefits to the subjects for participation in your research?

    Write a paragraph introduction.

    Create a timeline. (Complete a table with as many steps as you imagine.)

    Description of Steps Needed to Complete Research ProjectDue Date
    Expected Results
    • What do you hope to accomplish?
    • How many cycles of AR do you anticipate engaging in?

    This section is used to convince your reader that your expected results are reasonable. Back up the previous section with a short discussion from research literature, literature on the issue you are studying, or on AR literature.


    If there are any budgetary considerations that will need to be addressed as part of this research, write them here; if not, then you can delete this section.

    Publication of Results

    Who will have publishing rights to any final report that would result from this research? What permissions would be needed within your local context, and from whom will you need to secure these permissions? Do you have any concerns regarding these issues?

    If working in a PAR team, how will each member of the team ensure efficacy and rigor of the results? Who has content rights? Who has rights of publication?

    Follow-on Studies
    • If it is not within your time limitations to fully answer all your research questions, what do you hope to accomplish?
    • What are the remaining questions, and how will you address them? Over what period of time?
    Include APA-formatted references for all authors, works, and data cited herein.

    Appendix B. Example of Student Answers to Proposal Questions

    • What is your topic?

      Aerospace engineering culture.

    • What questions would you like to answer?

      What inclusion factors influence an engineering organization?

      How does a noninclusive aerospace company become more inclusive?

      What value do multicultural engineers have to the organization's stakeholders?

    • Which of these questions will you have time to address in your study, and which will need to be placed in the further studies section?

      All questions addressed.

    • Why are these questions significant?

      To discover new knowledge and reflect on actions needed to produce a desired future.

    • What do you want to do, to accomplish?

      Engage those closest based on successes and needs.

    • Why might others care about your problem?

      To further growth and success of the organization.

    • How do others see the same set of issues or problems? Back up your ideas with literature.

      Others have the same issues and concerns of not being organized in line with demographic changes, thereby limiting growth and performance. Background literature included in IRB.

    • Are there larger, overarching questions or issues that affect what you are researching?

      The overreaching issues concern a lack of research on the subject of engineering inclusion.

    • What values do you hold that will guide this work?

      I am a stakeholder within an aerospace engineering company faced with an aging, single-culture workforce. My values include sustaining and increasing performance levels concerning the future of domestic engineering resources.

    • How are they in line with general AR principles?

      Stakeholder involvement and engaging participants from inside and outside organizational cultures foster various inquiry cycles and various forms of learning that in turn articulate experiential knowing via creative expression and application.

    • What is the context for this work, including the location, the environmental issues, and the industry standards that create the need to study your issue?

      The context for this research includes large, subprime aerospace engineering companies that typically hire from within or strive to use the same breed of technical resources to achieve an industry standard level of performance.

      Local context includes the company that I work for and surrounding companies that oftentimes share the same resources.

      The environmental issues that are relevant here include organizational sameness that is affected by future demographic changes. The uncertainty, including benefits of change, creates a need to study this issue.

    • What is the history of the issue in that location?

      The history of this issue is a desire to stay the same or one that lacks inclusion and diversity.

    • How many people are involved in the AR project?

      Approximately 11 people.

    • What will be their level of involvement?

      Develop into engineering functional teams within their level of expertise, and organize their experiences through group participation.

    • What data already exist about the issue in this specific location? Set up the reader's understanding of the baseline from which you are working. For example, are there incident reports or gaps between policy and actions that you can refer to?

      Hiring from within to maintain consistent levels of experience and culture is nothing new to the business market, especially aerospace. Aerospace engineers, unlike many traditional engineering functions, often specialize in particular types of aerospace products, such as commercial aircraft, military fighter jets, spacecraft, and so on (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). This phenomenon has contributed to an insider group of aerospace engineers most familiar with the cyclical trends of resource requirements. Engineers from other technical industries who do not know the aerospace genre are often not considered or do not fit in.

    • What population is affected by the issue you are studying, and how will they be involved in your research?

      The population affected include primarily aerospace engineers as stakeholders and other engineering disciplines as outsiders.

    • What specific variable(s) will you be trying to measure?

      Success of other diversified aerospace engineering organizations and technical performance.

    Methodology—Describing the Action Research
    • Will you be undertaking this project as a lone researcher or part of a participatory group?

      Initially as a lone researcher to research the successes of similar companies followed by a participative role.

    • If part of a group, who will be the other participants, and what are their stakes in the project?

      Respective engineering functional group leaders and their group participants.

    • If PAR, then have you all agreed upon relative issues of working together? Rights of publication? Dissemination of results?

      Yes—including approved consent forms and an approved IRB.

    • How often will you meet?

      Scheduled weekly meetings and impromptu sessions.

    Discover Phase
    • What do you need to learn before you advance to the action steps?

      An understanding of what other engineering companies are successfully doing to diversify their workforces.

    • How will the discovery be undertaken, and who will be responsible for what portions of the work (if done in a group)?

      Myself, as the primary researcher.

    Measurable Action Phase
    • What natural actions make sense for the first cycle of research?

      Understanding of the research actions and learning history.

    • How will their outcomes be measured?

      Through data gathering and technical performance.

    • What methods of measurement do you imagine using to gather your data? Note: Because of the evolutionary systems within AR methodology, we recommend a wide list of possible methods that can be honed later.

      Develop and identify a data collection procedure and observation as a tool to analyze the data collected by interpreting all symbols and numbers into text. This method will help to understand the phenomena of the study and to draw correlation between cultural differences and performance as a measure.

    • What systems do you have in place to ensure accurate data collection?

      Excel database.

    Reflection Phase
    • What protocols will you use for keeping reflective notes throughout the process? For instance, will you keep an ongoing journal?

      Reflective tools used in this research project include:

      Weekly status, listed as group minutes, will be used to reflect on what was learned as a group from the previous meetings. This weekly status review will occur during my established weekly staff meetings.

      Team interaction recorded and reviewed to determine strengths and weaknesses surrounding the possible integration of multicultural resources.

      Weekly stakeholder reviews will reflect back on team performance. This will occur during my boss's weekly staff meetings.

    • How will you gain experience through active observation and reflection at the moment (reflexive practice)?

      A validation meeting designed to review the things that worked and the things that did not work establishes the forum for peer learning and learning to learn. This peer learning process does not teach learning history but rather identifies the history of events realized from most recent program status by recognizing the actions that worked and did not work, thereby supporting collaborative action. Specific presentations to the functional or local engineering community and to the multicultural or cosmopolitan engineering community consisting of quality, cost, and schedule metrics relate to a common understanding of data tools used to measure organizational performance.

    • Will notes be taken at all meetings?


    • How are these notes to be analyzed later?

      Comparison based on trends, history, and reflection.

      Note: Findings and conclusions are not included in the proposal stage.

    Ethical Assurances
    • How will the rights of the people you study be protected?

      Signed consent form.

    • What are the rights of the people you are working with on a PAR team?

      The right not to participate or stop at any time.

    • What are our relationships with both of these groups?

      Insiders and stakeholders.

    • How will you ensure confidentiality?

      No names will be used.

    • How will your data be protected?

      Single source and password protected. Discarded after the project is complete.

    • How will you work to ensure no undue pressure will be exerted by you?

      Strictly voluntary and on casual time.

    • What are the options should people decide they do not want to participate?

      Their choice not to participate with no repercussions.

    • What assurances do you offer if they decide not to participate regarding the long-term ramifications of that choice?

      Part of the signed consent form.

    Assumptions and Limitations
    • What assumptions are you making as you start the study?

      To gain more knowledge from the start.

    • What biases do you have about either the process or the outcomes you expect?

      That inclusion may be seen as a negative process.

    • What do you wish you could do that you will not be able to do?

      Direct team participation.

    • How long will your study be, and do you think you will have all the data you need to complete the study as intended? If not, then list the limit of size or time that makes your study possible, if not perfect.

      Expect the study to be 12 weeks long and to gain new knowledge from the start.

    • What other important things will you not have time to get to during this project?

      Measurements after making any changes.

    • What should people be able to do with the new information that will result from your project?

      Apply it to their own organizations.

    • How will your AR study contribute to your field?

      As a researcher in a doctorial research program concerning organizational development and change and as a future consultant.

    • How will it contribute to your company?

      As support to future organizational enhancements in line with demographic changes.

    • How will it contribute to the world?

      By supporting inclusion and diversity (big deal for me and my eternal footprint on earth).

    • What are the implications of your work for the future in your field, your community, or your organization?

      Recognizing and embracing the inclusion process—leading to a diverse environment without having to manage it.

    Appendix C. Student Proposal

    Table of Contents
    • Abstract
    • Introduction
      • Background
      • Local Context
      • Personal Context
    • Problem Statement
    • Purpose Statement
    • Research Questions
    • Research Design
      • Discovery
      • Measurable Actions
      • Reflection
      • Data Collection and Analysis
    • Ethical Assurances
    • Procedures
      • Timeline
    • Expected Results
    • Discussion
    • Budget
    • Publication of Results
    • Follow-On Studies
    • References

    The purpose of this research is to perform a data review of how engineering companies have been able to diversify from a single culture of resources to a multicultural level. Current aerospace engineering levels revolve around a single culture of limited resources grown within the ranks of midsize aerospace companies. The scope of this research involves engineers, their supervisors, and program management from two commercial and two defense programs within Vought Aircraft, a midsize aerospace company that supports several major aerospace prime companies. Respective engineering functions and support organizations from separate aerospace programs, approximately 80 people, will be involved with this research. Two research cycles, refining methods, data, and interpretation shall reflect knowledge and experiences that support these further actions. The main questions this AR hopes to answer include what factors influence a diverse engineering organization and what the value of cultural differences is to aerospace engineering stakeholders. The effect of this AR hopes to influence a more inclusive aerospace engineering culture. The major inside stakeholders of this project are program management, site management, functional management, and engineers. Time constraint is a realized limitation to this project, but results represent on-point research. The contribution expected from this AR supports effective action consistent with my intentions toward developing and sustaining a more diverse engineering community inside the United States while maintaining or improving the level of organizational performance.


    Traditionally, large subprime aerospace manufacturing companies hire from within the ranks of the industry, using the same breed of technical resources to achieve a consistent, industry-standard level of expertise. This process works similar to an apprentice program where mentoring members of the same culture is the desire, with understudies mentored by the establishment's finest masters to ultimately and purposely serve as their predecessors. This hiring method yields a consistent, nondiverse level of results that serves to be in the best interest of aerospace managers. Airbus of France, holding more than 50% of the world market for passenger aircraft and rival to Boeing Aircraft Company, has an apprentice program in place where the strategy of growing their own engineers is an important factor in preparing for the future (Sampson, 2006). This method maintains a tight reign of people best suited by management to work at and maintain a set standard of knowledge for the company. It is not a diversified workforce offering a multicultural level of experience but rather a purposely developed status quo.

    Hiring from within to maintain consistent levels of experience and culture is nothing new to the business market, especially aerospace. Engineers apply the principles of science and mathematics to develop economical solutions to technical issues. Aerospace engineers, unlike many traditional engineering functions, often specialize in a particular type of aerospace product, such as commercial aircraft, military fighter jets, spacecraft, and so on (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010). Outsiders or engineers from outside of aerospace are not as vulnerable to cutbacks in defense spending and in governmental research and development that have resulted in significant layoffs of aerospace engineers in the past. This phenomenon has contributed to an insider group of aerospace engineers most familiar with the cyclical trends of resource requirements.

    Engineers from other technical industries who do not know the aerospace genre have to adapt to fit in. This is similar with respect to engineers and well-educated professional resources from nonaerospace related fields. Thomas Stewart, Harvard Business News (2005), indicated, “Imported talent tends to do less well than home grown talent.” Stuart views the current CEO crisis as caused by too many outside hires and that internal succession plans are required to ensure the future success of the company business.

    The “Attraction Paradigm” (Byrne, 1971) considers this comfort level by attracting individuals that prefer their own group. Culture characterizes similar ways of thinking and behaving among members of a functional group (Gibson, 2006). This cultural diversity develops into a group allegiance (Pelled, 1996). Diversity within the commercial aircraft industry is a result of these prior theories. This supports Edmonson and McManus' (2007) theory that “mature theory presents well-developed constructs and models that have been studied over time with increasing precision” (p. 1158). The theoretical perspective used here is an orienting lens for research relating to specific organizational functions.

    Local Context

    Vought Aircraft Company, located in Dallas, Texas, employs about 900 to 1,000 engineers spread out over several commercial and defense-oriented aircraft programs. Vought Aircraft is a major subcontractor to several prime aerospace companies including Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, Gulfstream, Airbus, and several U.S. government agencies. These engineering resources are made up of direct Vought employees and contract engineers who often shift between programs based on budget requirements and program needs. Many of these same engineers tend to move between programs their entire careers, limiting an environment of inclusion. Other aerospace companies have fallen into this scenario and have formed their own tight cultures of professionals that perform as if in a personal business. These professionals are made up of direct company employees and contract engineers or “flexible on-demand staffing” (O'Hanlon, 1999) who rotate between companies. As new contracts cause a surge in the need for resources, managers most familiar with their businesses and the routine people available spur these resource needs. Alternatively, the same resources available for hire will reference similar resources, and inclusion is not the priority.

    Personal Context

    I am the technical project manager for Vought Aircraft in Dallas, Texas, responsible for all Boeing commercial programs. My organization currently consists of 140 full-time engineers. I perform as a functional manager over 11 organizational teams and as the project leader (reference attached organizational chart). Each organizational lead has a team leader who reports directly to me. I am responsible for hiring and professionally nourishing personnel in my organization and usually seek resources from the same company pool of engineers or based on recommendations from insiders or those resources who I believe will fit into the current organizational structure.

    Using the current resources within the organization, my plan is to identify teams using my respective team leaders from within the respective functions and conduct PAR. This plan will allow equal participation and individual voices within each team to be used to support this research project.

    Problem Statement

    I want to investigate concerns about what perceptions surround the reasoning behind choosing/hiring a single versus diverse culture of aerospace engineers, especially when knowing that the current majority source of human resources will soon be the minority.

    Purpose Statement

    The purpose of this research is to conduct PAR to determine the value of cultural engineering differences as a first step in making improvements within the organization.

    Research Questions
    • What are the factors that influence a diverse engineering organization?
    • How does a noninclusive aerospace company become more inclusive?
    • What is the value of multicultural engineers to aerospace engineering stakeholders?
    Research Design

    PAR, having the proven capacity to produce change and effect, is the main research tool used in this research project. This systematic form of inquiry, which is collective, collaborative, self-reflective, critical, and useful by participants of the research (McCutcheon & Jung, 1990), serves as the obvious choice to organize life experiences through group participation.

    PAR is important to research as it relates to the individual and cultural level. This method orients approaches to new learning and new knowledge. AR adapts to many audiences through engagement and participation. Multiple audiences recognize the voices of practitioners used to explore and test new ideas and methods. This social dimension allows the research to take place in real-world situations and aims to solve real problems. AR is learning by doing with a prime purpose of turning people involved into researchers.


    There is a need to discover an understanding of what other engineering companies are doing or what is used by other organizations that have successfully diversified their workforces. Another item for discovery is to determine what others believe is the value of having a multicultural engineering workforce in other applications besides aerospace. Examples of such related discovery may include major aerospace companies that have higher diversity ratings than smaller companies. As an active leader in networking between other programs within my company and as a known manager and leader amongst other aerospace engineering companies within the Dallas and Fort Worth areas, this level of discovery will take minimal effort on my part. Other examples of discovery may also include professional organizations recognized as being diverse, including hospitals, universities, and the tourist industry. This discovery is necessary prior to taking measurable actions.

    Measurable Actions

    Measurable actions are required to determine the performance level of a more diversified engineering function. To measure these actions, my research will compare the performance levels of more diversified engineering functions and how they relate to my organization. The types of actions here include gathering data from other local aerospace engineering companies and other companies with successful experience in diversity. This data may be publicly available if the company performs work for the government; otherwise, survey data will be obtained as required to lead to this goal of how to measure actions.

    To gain a wider perspective of information, it is necessary to use data collection procedures and observation as tools to analyze the data collected by interpreting all symbols and numbers into text. This method will help me to understand the phenomena of my study and to draw correlations between cultural differences and performance as a measure.


    Reflective tools used in this research project include the following:

    • Weekly status, listed as group minutes, will be used to reflect on what was learned as a group from the previous meetings. This weekly status review will occur during my established weekly staff meetings.
    • Team interaction will be recorded and reviewed to determine strengths and weaknesses surrounding the possible integration of multicultural resources.
    • Weekly stakeholder reviews will reflect back on team performance. This will occur during my boss's weekly staff meetings.

    A validation meeting designed to review the things that worked and the things that did not work establishes the forum for peer learning and learning to learn. This peer learning process does not teach learning history but rather identifies the history of events realized from the most recent program status by recognizing the actions that worked and did not work, thereby supporting collaborative action. Specific presentations to the functional or local engineering community and to the multicultural or cosmopolitan engineering community consisting of quality, cost, and schedule metrics relate to a common understanding of data tools used to measure organizational performance.

    Data Collection and Analysis
    Data SourceHuman Subjects/How They Will Be Recruited/Their Work Relationship With YouType of Analysis
    Major aerospace companies within the Dallas/Fort Worth area of the U.S.Engineers Managers Recruited as part of a focus group and by interviews Coworkers, peers, stakeholdersReflective learning Learning history PAR Qualitative surveys
    Ethical Assurance

    Aerospace engineers, the aerospace engineering function, and associated stakeholders, outside of my organization, are subjects of this research project. Data gathered based on focus groups, interviews, and anonymous surveys shall serve managing stakeholders. Individual consent forms shall be obtained by all participating in this research project. Proper IRB requirements shall be verified prior to proceeding.

    Description of Steps Needed to Complete Research ProjectDue Date
    Define research proposal4-12-2010
    Identify stakeholders4-26-2010
    Identify working teams5-03-2010
    Perform interviews5-17-2010
    Review data6-07-2010
    Expected Results

    The overall expectations from this research project are an understanding of the value of cultural differences within an engineering organization and an approach to implement a more inclusive engineering organization. Regardless of the value determined by cultural difference, the majority population of human resources is shifting, as the current majority soon becomes the minority. Ultimately, companies must recognize this shift in resources available. The expected results are for aerospace engineering stakeholders to be more prepared.

    The expectations I hope to derive from my AR model is depth and detailed data, vivid and nuanced answers, and an overall richness in responses. Notes and other information will be formulated immediately following each interview and tabulated in spreadsheet format. Broad patterns will be identified and data analyzed using Creswell's (2008) interpretation steps. I anticipate engaging in a minimum of two cycles of AR as time permits.


    Management focus on local workplace diversity has many U.S. companies looking for ways to include cultural value in their workforce.

    According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau News (2008) by mid century, current minorities, about one third of the U.S. population, is expected to become the majority in 2042. The current national majority will be 54% minorities in 2050 (U.S.

    Census Bureau News, 2008). Many companies have initiated plans to explore and implement a more multicultural workplace, while others still rely on the existing and well-established work culture that has sustained their endeavors for several decades. Considering this shift in upcoming resources, aerospace engineering stakeholders must understand the inclusion factors that will lead them into the future.


    The budgetary considerations that need to be addressed as part of this research project are minimal. Casual time (nonpaid company time) is required for those supporting this research during business hours and is included as part of the existing salary process.

    Publication of Results

    Final publication rights concerning this research project reside exclusively with the research author. A verbal disclaimer shall be made with each contributor to the research in accordance with IRB requirements. Stakeholders within the PAR team shall receive a completed report.

    Follow-on Studies

    This research proposal serves to accomplish further data needed to support a comprehensive research project. Collaboration, using second person action and reflection, will involve the participation and empowerment of outsider partners to exchange the new knowledge across other groups. Engaging participants working together from inside and outside a culture or project provides an inquiring group of coresearchers and cosubjects. This participation of stakeholders and process owners to research cultural knowledge is an appropriate way to explore new knowledge. Innovative methods to cocreate knowledge include cooperative inquiry and related forms of participative research. Inquiry cycles of action and reflection determine how we know what we do not know. Various ways of knowing contribute to the quality of learning and to this cycle of inquiry. Experiential learning is a quality associated with openness and awareness to surroundings. This quality is knowing through relationships and direct association with people, places, and things (Reason & Bradbury, 2007). Presentational leaning is a quality of knowledge that articulates experiential knowing in a creative manner. This quality of knowing through relational stories provides a level of creative expression. Propositional knowing is a quality of intellectual knowledge. This quality relates to the specific and clear thinking path of proven acceptance. Finally, the practical knowing researched here is a quality that focuses on cultural practices. This quality relates to knowing how to do something using the interpersonal talents of an individual or culture.

    The remaining questions will be addressed through forum presentations and professor feedback during the second quarter of 2010.

    Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010–11 Edition, Engineers. U.S. Department of Labor. Retrieved April 21, 2010, from
    Byrne, D. (1971). The attraction paradigm. New York: Academic Press.
    Creswell, J. W. (2008). Educational research:planning, conducting, and evaluating Quantitative and qualitative research (
    3rd ed.
    ). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.
    Gibson, C. (2006). Unpacking the concept of virtuality: The effects of geographic dispersion, electronic dependence, dynamic structure, and national diversity on team innovation. Administrative Science Quarterly. 51(3), 451–495.
    McCutcheon, G. & Jung, B. (1990). Alternative perspectives on action research. Theory into practice, 29(3), 144–151.
    O'Hanlon, C. (1999). Finders keepers. American Printer, 223(5), 26–29.
    Pelled, L. (1996). Demographic diversity, conflict and work group outcomes: An intervening process theory. Organization Science. 7, 615–631.
    Reason, P, & Bradbury, H. (2008). Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice (
    2nd ed.
    ). London: Sage.
    Sampson, B. (2006). Grow your own engineers. Professional Engineering, 19(5), 25.
    Stewart, T. (2005). Picking and choosing. Harvard Business Review, 83(2), 10.
    U.S. Census Bureau News. (2008). An older and more diverse nation by midcentury. Retrieved April 9, 2010, from

    Appendix D. Action Research Weekly Report

    Weekly Report: Name and Title of What Is Being Researched
    • What happened this week?
    • What did you learn from it?
    • How did these new ideas change the way you are thinking or taking action?
    Measurable Action
    • What is your baseline?
    • What steps have you taken?
    • Has it improved?
    • Where are you on the scale from where you started to where you want to go?
    • What do you think or feel about what is going on?
    • What recommendations are you making to yourself for the next cycle?
    • What could you be doing differently?
    • How do these ideas go along with or contrast what you have read in the literature about this topic?
    Next Steps

    Appendix E. Table for Measurable Actions

    Appendix F. Year-Long Guide for Networked Action Research

    This design is an example of a year-long process to implement strategic change across either several departments or a geographically diverse organization. It was implemented first over a 5-year period of time across several states as more than 30 schools sought to change their practices to improve the education of homeless children and youth, and it has proven efficacy (James, 2006b, 2007, 2009; James et al., 2008).

    What follows is the luxury edition of this design, and it includes all the possible support systems that will ensure success. Because of the expense involved in time and resources, this would likely be undertaken by governmental agencies or multinational firms. Still, it is instructive as to what the ideal is, and from it, students may pair down to what is within their scope.

    For this complete facilitation pattern, there are three types of participation: (1) the facilitator who leads the meetings and is ultimately responsible to the stakeholders for the success of the process, (2) the facilitators in training, a group of people chosen to learn the process in the first year so that they can lead it in subsequent years, allowing it to become systemic within the organization, and (3) the participants who do the work, come regularly to the group meetings, and who, as part of local teams, are responsible to write reports at the end of their research, outcomes, and findings.

    The setup below is broken out into a facilitated set of meetings over the course of 9 months, and participants include directors and staff from the organization in the local teams, the facilitators in training, and the consultant.

    During and After the First Meeting (Beginning of the Project)
    • Articulate the ideals and values that guide their work practices and then critically analyze what constrains them from working toward or actualizing those values. The focus of the rest of the professional development is to embed those pedagogical values in their practice as they pursue the goals of their organization.
    • Discuss the goals and objectives given to the project by the organization and what constrains or inhibits the immediate successful completion of those goals.
    • Discuss communication protocols for the group between meetings, including but not limited to, brief weekly reflections on the project sent by e-mail to the facilitators in training to be passed on biweekly to the consultant.
    • Set interim goals and objectives as to what they need to discover in their first round of networked action research (NAR) activity and how they will accomplish those goals. This ends the first NPAR meeting, and the local teams go back to their places, where the local teams work to discover what they can.
    During and After the Second Meeting (7 to 8 Weeks Later)
    • The local facilitators in training set up and conduct an interim visit to each place where the local teams work.
    • During their second meeting, the participants discuss what they have discovered. They break into small groups to plan ways and means in which they can change their concrete behaviors to make them consistent with their values, overcome the challenges they face, and meet the objectives of their organizations.
    • The consultant facilitates the ways and means for them to successfully measure the outcomes of their intended actions, and the group sets interim goals for their first measurable action cycle.
    • The second meeting ends with a discussion of the importance of catching reflexions and reflections. Protocols are set for consistency.
    • The local facilitators in training set up and conduct an interim visit to each place where the local teams work to help with the measurable action portion of their work.
    • During the interim between the second and third meeting, the participants collaboratively gather data, and it becomes a self-training exercise for participants to study and improve their own practice along the lines of the agreed-upon values and ideas.
    During and After the Third Meeting (7 to 8 Weeks Later)
    • By the third meeting, the group can see that they are developing a knowledge base of how they recommend to others how to actually implement the aims of their organizations—this throws them into a reflective part of the cycle.
    • The consultant facilitates the ways and means in which deeper reflection and capturing reflexive moments can aid participants in seeing the assumptions they are making and to identify ways in which they can dig deeper into their subjects to build stronger, long-term outcomes.
    • Participants break into critical small groups and plan what they need to discover as they start their second round of research.
    • The consultant facilitates planning for how the projects will continue between meetings, and the facilitators in training set up and later conduct interim visits to each place where the local teams work to help with the that process.
    Meetings 4, 5, and 6 Proceed in Much the Same Way as the Earlier Meetings, While at the Same Time:
    • The consultant introduces planning for and execution of the final reports.
    • Participants learn to and execute the report of data from which to derive specific findings and conclusions that will be helpful to their colleagues in future years who are undergoing the same reform.
    • Facilitators in training complete their own AR processes to help them define their own values and ideals for working with groups, analyzing the issues that make this complex, and developing an implementation plan for the organization they serve that will ensure the project is ongoing and successful over time.
    • The consultant gathers data for the report to the organization as to the success of the project, challenges faced, and recommendations for ongoing success.

    Support from the organization is needed to provide the following:

    • The project consultant and two assistants, as needed, to facilitate both the professional development and to train trainers who will facilitate in future years as well as to manage the program and facilitate the writing of the final reports for publication. This work will take place over the course of 9 months to a year.
    • People chosen to be trained as facilitators so that the project can continue after its initial year.
    • Sites chosen as good potential sites for reform. Participants from the places where the local teams work should be the principals or headmasters, and two or more people who are chosen by them to make up the local teams.
    • Support for a stipend to be given to participants when they complete their final reports. For instance, in Sri Lanka, 5,000 rupees per lecturer are given for each completed AR project and report on their studies. Then, they report back to the organization who publishes these reports by topic to help other directors and staff members or other departments.
    • Support for 8 days of meeting times with the six to eight local teams meeting with the consultant, one of the assistants, and the people chosen to become facilitators the next year.
    • Support for two additional half days surrounding each session, one before and one after the eight meeting days described above. Here, the eight people chosen to be given the opportunity to learn facilitation first debrief what they have seen in support of places where the local teams work between meetings and then subsequently debrief the meeting with the local teams. They also set the agenda for the time between visits and for the next meeting. These people will be asked to stay in touch with the consultant and the assistant through virtual communication between visits.
    • Publishing support for the final reports to include publication costs, copy editing, and binding as well as distribution as desired by the organization.

    Appendix G. Model Informed Consent

    Research Description
    Description of the Research

    As a participant in the (name of study and name of university) on the (topic of study) you are being asked to partake in (type of data collection) to confirm, amend, or deny (what kind of information) as to (the goal or purpose of the AR research project). Data collected from you in the form of (list forms of data) will be for the purposes of either addressing the following questions or issues:

    • Issue on which the study is based
    • Research question 1
    • Research question 2
    • And so on

    You are being asked to participate in the study because.…


    Your voluntary participation in this study will entail.…

    Benefits of Participation

    There (may or may not) be direct benefits to you as a participant in this study. However, the aim of the project is to learn … and the benefits of the project long term should be.…

    Risks of Participation

    There are risks involved in all research studies. This study may include only minimal risks. State the level of anticipated risks (i.e., you may become uncomfortable or feel embarrassed when answering some questions).


    This study is likely to take up … of your time for which you will receive … level of compensation (no compensation is normal).

    Contact Information

    If you have any questions or concerns about the study, you may contact (list your professor), and you should know that you can easily withdraw your participation at any time by also calling that number.

    Voluntary Participation

    Your participation in this study is voluntary. You may refuse to participate in this study or in any part of this study with no harm to you or our relationship. You may withdraw at any time without prejudice to any relationships you may have. You are encouraged to ask questions about this study at the beginning or any time during the research study.


    All information gathered in this study will be kept completely confidential. No reference will be made in written or oral materials that could link you to this study. All records will be stored in a locked facility at least 3 years after completion of the study. After the storage time, the information gathered will be.… Data will be aggregated, and all identifying remarks will be removed prior to publication unless I contact you to ask permission to quote you.

    Participant Consent

    I have read the above information and agree to participate in this study. I am at least 18 years of age. A copy of this form has been given to me.

    Signature of Participant __________________ Date ___________

    Participant Name (Please Print) ______________________

    Investigator's Verification of Explanation

    I certify that I have carefully explained the purpose and nature of this research to_______________ _____________________(participant's name) in age-appropriate language. He/She has had the opportunity to discuss it with me in detail. I have answered all his/her questions and he/she provided the affirmative agreement (i.e. assent) to participate in this research.

    Investigator's Signature: ____________________ Date _________

    Participant's Rights

    Principal Investigator: Emily Alana James

    Research Title: A Study of the Use of Participatory Action Research to Create New Educational Practices for Homeless and Highly Mobile Students

    I have read and discussed the Research Description with the researcher. I have had the opportunity to ask questions about the purposes and procedures regarding this study.

    • My participation in this research is voluntary. I may refuse to participate or withdraw from participation at any time without jeopardy to future medical care, employment, student status, or other entitlements.
    • The researcher may withdraw me from the research at his/her professional discretion.
    • If, during the course of the study, significant new information that has been developed becomes available that may relate to my willingness to continue to participate, the investigator will provide this information to me.
    • Any information derived from the research project that personally identifies me will not be voluntarily released or disclosed without my separate consent, except as specifically required by law.
    • If at any time I have any questions regarding the research or my participation, I can contact the investigator, who will answer my questions. The investigator's phone number is (303) 860–1705.
    • If at any time I have comments or concerns regarding the conduct of the research or questions about my rights as a research subject, I should contact the Teachers College, Columbia University Institutional Review Board /IRB. The phone number for the IRB is (212) 678–4105. Or, I can write to the IRB at Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 W. 120th Street, New York, NY, 10027, Box 151.
    • I should receive a copy of the Research Description and this Participant's Rights document.
    • If video and/or audio taping is part of this research, I () consent to be audio/videotaped. I () do NOT consent to being video/audio taped. The written, video and/or audio taped materials will be viewed only by the principal investigator and members of the research team.
    • Written, video and/or audio taped materials () may/ () may NOT be viewed in an educational setting outside the research
    • My signature means that I agree to participate in this study.

    Participant's signature:________________________ Date: __/__/__


    Investigator's Verification of Explanation

    I certify that I have carefully explained the purpose and nature of this research to_______________ _____________________(participant's name) in age-appropriate language. He/She has had the opportunity to discuss it with me in detail. I have answered all his/her questions and he/she provided the affirmative agreement (i.e., assent) to participate in this research.

    Investigator's Signature:____________________________________________Date:_________

    Glossary of Terms

    • Action research (AR)—a three-stage, iterative methodological process that aims to create positive change while measuring results. It has been shown to be transformative for the researcher as well as the situation under study and is therefore also used for professional development purposes.
    • Action learning (AL)—ongoing processes that propel an organization to embed learning throughout its processes and structures. Using protocols that enhance learning, AL focuses on critical analysis of situations.
    • Action learning action research (ALAR)—where researchers manage the projects that they simultaneously study.
    • Action science(AS)—develops processes and circumstances to aid organizational development and overcome barriers to change. Communities of inquiry develop theories of action and then test their understanding in an iterative process.
    • Appreciative inquiry (AI)—coevolutionary research aimed at finding the best in situations and building toward a positive future.
    • Assumptions and limitations—the personal and contextual issues that may limit the credibility, validity, or reliability of a study.
    • Authenticity—developed by Guba and Lincoln (1986) as an alternative to credible, valid, and reliable measures, especially geared toward evaluation research. Four subtopics are discussed: fairness, ontological authenticity, educative authenticity, and catalytic authenticity.
    • Beneficence and nonmalfeasance—the ethical stance in research to do no harm.
    • Community-based participatory research (CBPR)—used primarily in health care, this methodology asks the wider community to engage in an equitable manner with health care providers as they study health disparities.
    • Conclusions—what the author of the study derives from his or her findings as they impact their lives, their contexts, and the industries or work environments involved.
    • Contributions—what the study adds to the context or literature in which it is embedded.
    • Credibility—whether and to what extent AR findings are believable to others.
    • Emancipatory research—an ideal frequency identified with AR where the people engaged reach beyond their current circumstances and address the power situations inherent in the current reality. They are able to move beyond those constraints to a new reality that contains a greater level of democracy, equitable action, and inclusiveness.
    • Fidelity and responsibility—the ethical stance in research that the work will promote trust through its benefit to the context and community in which it is embedded.
    • Findings—the outcomes of data as analyzed to answer the questions and purposes that drive the study.
    • Hub and spoke—a pattern of communication and activity useful to NPAR where people engaged at a distance in a project (the spokes) come together to confer and share learning (meeting in the hub). Periodic communication unites hub and spoke activity into a fast-paced and potentially transformative potential as it makes use of both the power of weak ties and of many hands making light work.
    • Insider research—when a researcher studies his or her place of employment or a group in which he or she is normally an active participant.
    • Justice—the ethical stance in research that all persons will have equal access and benefit from the study and that none are held back due to bias or prejudice.
    • Ladder of inference—developed out of Argyris's work on defensiveness, the ladder of inference reminds us that, when we hear a comment, we infer more than what may have been meant by the other person. We tend to act from that inference, which may propel unnecessary misunderstandings or conflict.
    • Living theory—using reflection and reflexion during AR to aid the researcher in reaching his or her highest ideals.
    • Methods—the tools of research: qualitative and quantitative or mixtures of both in data collection and analysis.
    • Methodology—the overarching ideas that tie the actions taken to collect and analyze data together.
    • Networked participatory action research (NPAR)—groups of people either working in proximity or across virtual realities on a similar project or issue. Participants may or may not have similar roles, but they employ the power of group dynamics to ferment activity over time to create positive change.
    • Participatory action learning action research (PALAR)—as per Zuber-Skerritt (2011), PALAR merges self-directed learning, AR, and leadership.
    • Participatory action research (PAR)—brings the power of diverse people to engage together in an inclusive and equitable manner to complete an AR project.
    • Purpose—the underlying reason or motivation behind a research study. Usually, this term is used in qualitative methodologies.
    • Reliability—demonstration that the results of AR demonstrate one-to-one correlation of data to findings, could be applicable to other settings, and make use of the voice of diverse populations within their study.
    • Respect for people's rights and dignity—the ethical stance in research to be aware of; that is, to respect and promote the dignity of all persons.
    • Scope—explains the context for the study in quantifiable terms as it defines the size of the populations and the variables under consideration.
    • Sensemaking—according to Weick (2009), it is the ongoing retrospective development of plausible stories and images that explain and rationalize what people have done.
    • Trustworthiness—developed by Guba and Lincoln (1986) as an alternative to credible, valid, and reliable measures, especially geared toward evaluation research. It's a measure of whether the research demonstrates value, applicability, consistency and neutrality.
    • Validity—whether and to what extent AR demonstrates the ability to increase personal and community knowledge and results in improvement.
    • Weak tie—when useful information is passed through relatively weak networked connections that our closer and more intimate relationships would be unable to know or share.


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    About the Authors

    E. Alana James, Ed.D., is an independent consulting professor for a number of universities. She specializes in teaching AR and basic research design to doctoral students in education, business, nonprofit management, and public administration. Her students provided the impetus for this volume. She speaks and consults internationally on the use of AR to build sustainable change in complex situations, but she also supports the use of AR for personal improvement. She is currently involved in a meta-analysis of previous AR studies. You can follow her other writing on Dr. James works with doctoral students to complete their dissertations, also specializing in the use of AR for thesis work, and that work can be followed on

    Tracesea Slater, M.S., works with Dr. James at Reinventing Life Enterprises facilitating AR and consulting with firms on the use of AR in complex situations. She recently retired from her position as the Manager of Research and Evaluation for a nonprofit in Denver, CO. Her prior research and evaluation work involved PAR projects in both education and health care for a social research company that specialized in program and organizational improvement. Tracesea's academic experience includes work as a sociology instructor at the University of Colorado at Denver and Colorado Technical University, where she leads students through the PAR process to better understand themselves and their interpersonal relationships.

    Alan Bucknam, A.I.G.A., is the owner and principal of Notchcode Creative, a visual communications studio in Colorado. He has over 18 years experience in graphic design, branding, and integrated marketing. Graduating with a B.F.A. in photography from the Savannah College of Art and Design in 1993, his background includes small boutique design studios and a large private university. Since opening Notchcode in 1999, he has created award-winning campaigns for local and national clients in the nonprofit, small business, corporate, and government sectors and has been implementing the PAR process in several client branding and design products in the last 2 years. PAR lends itself particularly well to website design and development due to the medium's iterative nature and low overhead for the iterative process. He has found clients to be more engaged in the strategic parts of the design process and has seen clients focus less on their personal biases and more on the qualitative and quantitative results the process returned.

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