Service action research: review and guidelines
Review article, 2020

Purpose Conducting research that is both practice- and theory-relevant is important for the service research community. Action research can be a fruitful approach for service researchers studying the transformative role of service research and wanting to make contributions to both the research community and to practical development. By exploring the current use of action research in service research, this study aims to make suggestions for enhancing the contribution to theory and practice development and to propose criteria for research quality for action research in service research. Design/methodology/approach This study builds on a systematic literature review of the use of action research approaches in service research. Findings The study makes three main contributions. First, it posits that any action research project needs to consider the four elements of problem identification, theorization, creating guiding concepts and intervention. Second, based on these elements mirrored in service action research, it outlines and analyzes three approaches to action research (i.e. theory-enhancing, concept developing and practice-enhancing). Third, it suggests a move from instrumental to a more conceptual relevance of the research and elaborates on the criteria for research quality. Originality/value This study contributes to the understanding of how action research may be applied for conducting high-quality collaborative research in services and proposes measures to enhance research quality in action research projects focusing services.

Qualitative research


Marketing research


Mattias Elg

Linköping University

Ida Gremyr

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Service Management and Logistics

Arni Halldorsson

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Service Management and Logistics

Hanken School of Economics

Andreas Wallo

Linköping University

Journal of Services Marketing

0887-6045 (ISSN)

Vol. 34 1 87-99

Subject Categories

Human Aspects of ICT

Information Science

Information Systemes, Social aspects



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