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Action research in Marketing

Action research in Marketing

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Published by Vikas
A Research regarding Marketing.
A Research regarding Marketing.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Vikas on Nov 06, 2012
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07/23/2013

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COMMENTARY
Action research in marketing
Chad Perry
Southern Cross University, Gold Coast, Australia, and 
Evert Gummesson
Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Keywords 
Action learning, Marketing, Learning methods, Marketing strategy
Abstract 
Develops a definition of action research that is particularly suitable for marketing and based on the articles in this issue of 
European Journal of Marketing
 , emphasising the breadth of action research in marketing and its distinctive interest in analytic generalisation, that is, inbuilding a theory that extends beyond the particular situation that is being action researched toother situations.. The three sections of this commentary include: definition of traditional actionresearch, action learning and case research. Second, drawing of four implications from the articleswithin this special issue about how action research can be done in marketing. Finally, presents abroad definition of action research in marketing.
The term “action research” was invented by the eminent social scientist KurtLewin over half a century ago (Lewin, 1946). Since then, it has becomeacclaimed and criticised. Reasons for controversy are that the label of actionresearch is rather broad, is often left undefined, or it used in different ways(Coghlan and Brannick, 2001). For example, Gummesson (2000) distinguishesfour types of action research for management: societal action science (thetraditional type where researchers help underprivileged groups to solveproblems), management action science (where the purpose is to understandorganizations, markets and customers better, usually to make an operationmore efficient), real-time action science (working in a research projectplanned for action research), and retrospective action science (letting pastexperience and action through later scholarly reflection become data in aresearch project).Thus the aim of this commentary is to develop a definition of action researchthat is suitable for marketing in particular. That categorisation is based on thearticles in this issue and emphasises the breadth of action research inmarketing and its distinctive interest in analytic generalisation, that is, inbuilding a theory that extends beyond the particular situation that is beingaction researched to other situations.This editorial has three sections. First, it defines traditional action research,action learning and case research. Then four implications are drawn from thearticles in this special issue about how action research can be done inmarketing. Finally, a broad definition of action research in marketing ispresented.
The Emerald Research Register for this journal is available at The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available at
EJM38,3/4
310
European Journal of MarketingVol. 38 No. 3/4, 2004pp. 310-320
q
Emerald Group Publishing Limited0309-0566DOI 10.1108/03090560410518567
 
Traditional action research
Consider the traditional form of action research first. There are four elements of a traditional action research project (this discussion is based on Carson
et al.
,2001 and the references listed there). That is, traditional action researchinvolves:(1) a group of people who use spiralling cycles of activities that involveplanning, acting, observing and reflecting upon what had happened,shown diagrammatically in Figure 1;(2) to try to improve workgroup processes of action;(3) that help to solve complex, practical problems about which little isknown; and(4) produces at least one report to the workgroup’s organisation about whatwas found.During these spiralling cycles, what is the relationship between an individualresearcher and the other members of the action research group? How do anaction researcher and others in the group interact? A key point is that an actionresearcher and his or her clients differ in knowledge. Clients are the “problemowners” and they have experience-based knowledge from their actual context.
Figure 1.
The spiralling cycles of activities of traditionalaction research
Action researchin marketing
311
 
In contrast, the researcher has her or his theorybased knowledge, but suchknowledge can be crucial to more precisely identify actual problems, clarifyimplicit assumptions, and through interaction and training change a client’sperspective on the need to undertake actions for improvements (Argyris, 1983).In more detail, there are three levels of researcher participation in an actionresearch project: technical, practical and emancipatory (Carr and Kemmis,1986). In the first,
technical 
level of participation the action researcher is merelya technical “expert”, a consultant who tells other people what to do. This is thenormal form of a consultant’s project; for example, a technical agribusinessconsultant is working in a grain development project in a developed countryand simply transfers the technology across. This is the simplest form of actionresearch and may not even meet the requirements of traditional action researchnoted above.The second,
practical 
level of participation by a researcher is like thestarting point of a “process consultant” (Schein, 1990), where the researcherhas a Socratic role, encouraging participation and reflection about
processes
so that others can learn about learning about doing, and not just learnabout doing. The researcher helps the client understand of how he or shefits into a system.The third, emancipatory level of researcher participation is the idealaccording to some action researchers (Carr and Kemmis, 1986). Here theresearcher becomes a co-researcher with the other people, for responsibility forthe project is shared equally among everyone. In emancipatory action research,the researchers aim to change the whole context of the problem and thusliberate themselves from its causes, including their mental context. That is, thistype of participation:
. . .
aims not only at technical and practical improvement [technical] and the participants’better understanding [practical]
. . .
but also at changing the system itself and/or thoseconditions which impede desired improvement in the system or organisation. It also aims atthe participants’ empowerment and self confidence (Zuber-Skerritt, 1996, p. 5).
This third level of participation is indeed an ideal one and is probably onlyreally achieved by “revolutionaries” who change the structure within theirwhole organisation or community. In other words, this type of action researcherbecomes a transformative intellectual who transforms the view that people hadof their world and so emancipates them from their mental prison bars. Whenemancipatory action research is being done in Latin America, for example, itmight aim to lead to revolutions to liberate the poor (Freire, 1972). Whenemancipatory action research is done in education, it can lead to moredemocratic classrooms. When it is done in business, it may not be so dramaticbut it can lead to new ways of thinking that restructure processes and savecosts. For example, action researchers from
several 
departments can cometogether to look at functional interrelationships affecting what was at firstthought to be just a marketing problem. This traditional form of action
EJM38,3/4
312

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