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The Appreciative Inquiry Method—A Suitable Candidate for Action Research?


Frank Stowell, School of Computing, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth, UK.



The Appreciative Inquiry method (AIM) is an approach to ‘finding out’ about issues of concern. The method has been used in a variety of situations where the issue to be investigated is well defined and accepted by the stakeholders. We have also found that the method provides a framework for undertaking research in the field or action research. The new researcher undertaking action research can find such an undertaking to be daunting. The dilemma is finding an approach that will enable insight into a situation without the method used distorting its findings. We have found that thinking about the underlying philosophy and the approach to be adopted is a key decision to be made in advance before embarking upon the research. In this paper, we consider the contribution that AIM can make to action research by providing examples of the outcomes of enquiry into several distinctly different areas of interest. Although springing from research ideas about knowledge elicitation, there have been several developments that enhance its capability for enquiry and as a consequence its potential as a method for action research. Since its conception, AIM has been used in a number of projects and developed through several research programmes and has shown its usefulness in supporting the researchers' investigations. This paper provides a summary of the developments with reference to some applications that have contributed to the idea and in moving its application forward. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.