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First Person Action Research


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Table of Contents

Introducing first person inquiry 'Going Going' by Philip Larkin Part I - Living Life as Inquiry Integrating action research, systemic thinking and attention to issues of power Action inquiry and action logics Part II - Dimensions of Inquiry Notions of inquiry Disciplines of inquiry Inquiry in action Images of aspiring inquiry practice Part III - Working with Ideas, Theories and Images as Inquiry Working with academic literatures Drawing on the work of Nathalie Sarraute Self-reflection and life narrative in the work of Kazuo Ishiguro Part IV - Writing as Inquiry and as Representation Writing as inquiry Writing as representation Selectively adopting Freefall Writing precepts Part V - Stories of Inquiry Inquiry learning groups and working with feedback Acting for sustainability Seeking to contribute to systemic change, as time slips by 'Work Song' by Wendell Berry Wondering what to do about an elderly relative Part VI - Ongoing Inquiry Well, I won't be doing that again In reflection

About the Author

Judi Marshall is Professor Emerita at Lancaster University Management School, UK, and draws on a long history as a qualitative and action researcher.


Judi Marshall's enduring practice of living life as inquiry shines through this excellent volume which is at once a handbook, provocation, storybook, and confidant. A vital resource for those wishing to engage in the messiness of self-reflexive practice, Judi's text provides wise guidance through its difficulties while pointing to its possibilities for self and systems transformation.

-- Dr Donna Ladkin

This is a jewel of a book. Judi Marshall, not only provides insights into the theory and practice of first person action research she also engages in it herself. She shows how living life as inquiry is a responsibility that challenges us to think critically and act meaningfully in our world. This book is a must, not merely to read, but to internalise.

-- David Coghlan

First person action research, as Judi articulates it, helps inform better action, better research and more mindful leadership. The field of action research has been waiting for Judi's decades long crystallization of first person inquiry practices and First Person Action Research now offers a most welcome and timely read. Action researchers, who are encouraged to hold high aspirations for positive impact with stakeholders, will find a guide to staying in touch with their aspiration, and support for making it real. Judi's work helps to situate inquiry that integrates what she calls "outer and inner arcs of attention," into our everyday "living life as inquiry." First person inquiry is not for its own sake. As social scientists we may also understand that because ostensibly objective studies are increasingly questioned for their partiality, well-wrought first person action research can help clarify and refine our scientific insights. Judi offers examples of useful and occasionally artistic first person inquiry practices, helpfully brought alive with her own stories of living everyday inquiry. We are edified by inquiry practices that enrich all, both practitioners and those touched by the practice, alike. Thank you Judi!

-- Hilary Bradbury

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