Four contexts of action research: Crossing boundaries for productive interplay

Gerrit Jan Schuiling, Hans Vermaak

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This paper explores how action research takes place within and between four contexts: adding practical value, improving institutions, developing professions, and contributing to theory. We argue that action research is more than those activities conducted within these contexts: it is a process of handling the generative tensions in the boundary regions. Framing action research this way has proven helpful in recasting such tensions as meaningful, in thinking through research designs in teaching and practice, and in paying sufficient attention to boundary work. This model for conceptualising action research has been refined over two decades of practice and reflection by the authors.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1
Pages (from-to)5-23
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Action Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2017


  • action research
  • boundary work
  • context
  • contradiction
  • design
  • tension


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