Author(s): Paul Bate
The traditional dichotomy between research and practice invariably results in having to make difficult choices between the two, or trying to balance them in some way in order to keep both academic and corporate ‘sponsors’ happy. The real challenge is not so much balancing the two as achieving a closer fusion and synthesis between them. The action research model offers one such way forward in this regard, being better placed than either the ‘applied research’ model or the ‘consultancy’ model to realize the synergies and complementarities between research and practice. Action research is a mutual learning process within which people work together to discover what the issues are, why they exist, and how they might be addressed. Over time there is a blurring of the traditional roles of practitioner and researcher, the former becoming ‘researching practitioners’, the latter ‘practising researchers’. The different phases of the action research model are illustrated using data from NHS case studies and relevant literature. Although the focus is upon how an organizational anthropologist would use the model, the suggestion is that it commends itself to a much broader constituency of social scientists and qualitative researchers working in the social and public policy arenas, and hence merits further investigation by all of these.