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Abstract

A much revisited question within the field of Information Systems is how researchers can intervene in the context of large-scale, complex and heterogeneous information infrastructures, while ensuring impact on field settings. To explore this question, I draw upon my interventions and fieldwork experiences from an action research project in a healthcare infrastructural setting. I use these experiences as a basis for appraising the normative criteria for rigor and relevance that are enacted in IS action research literature. I argue that while these criteria originally had important contributions, there are also weaknesses with normative approaches. Specifically, these norms of action research leave relatively little space for understanding and managing emerging empirical uncertainties. These norms are important because they have implications not only on how we conduct action research in practice, but also on how we share research experiences, document and report research processes, and on how we use this literature for teaching and training purposes. Therefore, we need methodological perspectives more adequate to the varied experiences of empirical IS research. I propose replacing the normative frameworks found in some IS action research literature with a reflexive framework that encourages researchers to investigate critically how their methods are enacted and practiced in the field. The contribution of this paper lies in providing a reflexive analysis of the situated and emergent challenges encountered when handling action researcher’s dual agenda of combining academic and practical contribution.

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