Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Details

Sykes, C. S. & Treleaven, L. (2009). Critical Action Research and Organizational Ethnography. In S. Ybema, D. Yanow, H. Wels & F. H. Kamsteeg (Eds.), Organizational Ethnography: Studying the Complexities of Everyday Life (pp. 215-230). London: Sage.


In studies of organizations, action research generates a wide range of data, principally through participation in group inquiry processes (Heron and Reason, 2001; Reason and Bradbury, 2001). However, action research is more than just a collection of methods or even a methodology. Its relation to the co-construction of knowledge places it firmly within the domain of epistemology (Greenwood and Levin, 1998; Park, 2001). It is possible to draw some strong links between action research and ethnography from their common epistemologies and the methods each employs. Nonetheless, there are also clear distinctions that can be drawn in the ways that action researchers are positioned, how knowledge is co-constructed, and the power relations that can be investigated when a critical approach forms the basis of inquiry. This chapter highlights the potential of a form of critical action research for use by organizational ethnographers in doing research into the complexity of everyday organizational life.