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The third generation of action research was Australian critical and emancipatory action research, including the notable work of Carr and Kemmis (1986). Carr and Kemmis were proponents of action research that emphasised personal growth through collaborative critical undertakings to empower the participants to change society. Kemmis and McTaggart (2005) state: “A fourth generation of action research emerged in the connection between critical emancipatory action research and participatory action research that had developed in the context of social movements in the developing world” (p. 560). This generation operated with two key themes; the construction of theories for more action oriented approaches to action research, and the need for participatory action researchers to affiliate with broad movements of society.

Nursing engaged with action research and added to this history. Nursing scholars are reported to have become increasingly interested in action research in the 1980s (Holter & Schwartz Barcott, 1993). Prior to this 1993 publication, Webb (1990) had speculated that the main interest for nurse researchers in action research was that it extended an opportunity to work with people in a fashion that is non-hierarchical and it could be used to promote change and bridge the theory practice gap in the profession. Furthering this notion, Greenwood (1994) considered action research in nursing as social praxis. Hart and Bond (1995) explained that action research was seen by nurse researchers as a means of narrowing the theory practice gap utilising reflective practice within a collaborative enquiry to achieve autonomy in practice. Taylor et al. (2002), in summarising how nurse researchers have utilised action research, observed that its use has been “varied, and it includes studies aimed at changing work conditions for nurses, helping them reclaim their authority and organizing themselves to be more effective in their practice and to clarify their roles and their status” (p. 327).


Agreed Features of Action Research

Reason and Bradbury (2006) argue that action research is a standalone research approach that is synergistic with other qualitative designs. Greenwood and Levin (1998) admit a definition or even a general overview of action research is hard to find as its origins and development have been complex attracting many theories, methods, motives and problems.


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