Action Research

  • Greg Hearn
  • Dan Swan
  • Kathryn Geels


As media systems continue to evolve rapidly, provoking cultural and institutional change, the relevance of action research to media research has grown. Action research is premised on enacting and observing change. Action research formulates practical interventions which test conceptual or policy hypotheses, then evaluates these interventions to draw conclusions about the hypotheses. Action research has been used in media research for purposes of advocacy, activism or local empowerment, as well as educational, cultural or pragmatic commercial outcomes. Because of the primacy of action, this research approach is local in terms of framing, and participant-driven, in terms of its design. Media policy however, is normally a national or at least broader jurisdictional problem. Therefore, in this chapter, we provide two cases which particularly emphasize how to design and execute action research so that it links to national or broader policy agendas. The rationale for Case 1 was an observation in Australia’s national data about growth in creative digital media services to other sectors of the economy. The action research that followed was an initiative of an Australian Government department concerned with integrating these interactive digital media into more traditional industry sectors, to enhance their innovative capacity. Companies that took part were primarily concerned with enhancing business outcomes such as improving their innovative capacities and in some cases pursuing specific start-up ventures for commercial gain. The project facilitated collaboration between digital media companies and companies in the mining, manufacturing and education sectors. The second case is an initiative of the UK Foundation Nesta (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) to encourage hyperlocal media within a national policy agenda responding to rapid change in the media sector. The focus of action was on helping these media publishers analyze their audience and content, increasing their digital skills and developing nationally relevant commercial and social value propositions. The steps in an action research cycle are exemplified and explained for each case.



The authors acknowledge the Australian and Victorian Governments for original funding of Case 1 and Nesta for funding of Case 2 reported in this chapter. Case 2 is based on excerpts from in reports (Geels, 2016, 2017) and ancillary material, which the study “Action research in audience analytics” which was part of the project “Destination Local”. These excerpts are used with permission of Nesta.


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Further Reading

  1. Anderson, C. R., & McLachlan, S. M. (2016). Transformative research as knowledge mobilization: Transmedia, bridges, and layers. Action Research, 14(3), 295–317. Scholar
  2. Cumming, T. M., Strnadová, I., & Singh, S. (2014). iPads as instructional tools to enhance learning opportunities for students with developmental disabilities: An action research project. Action Research, 12(2), 151–176. Scholar
  3. Eady, S., Drew, V., & Smith, A. (2015). Doing action research in organizations: Using communicative spaces to facilitate (transformative) professional learning. Action Research, 13(2), 105–122. Scholar
  4. Foth, M., & Brynskov, M. (2016). Participatory action research for civic engagement. Civic media: Technology, design, practice (pp. 563–580). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  5. Noske-Turner, J., & Tacchi, J. (2016). Grounding innovation in Pacific media and communication for development projects (Special issue). Information Technologies & International Development, 12(4), 59–69.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Greg Hearn
    • 1
  • Dan Swan
    • 2
  • Kathryn Geels
    • 3
  1. 1.QUTBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.RealarByron BayAustralia
  3. 3.European Journalism CentreBrusselsBelgium

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