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God is in the Details Mies van der Rohe; a saying from a man who paid particular attention to every little detail that was involved within the design and construction of the Barcelona Pavilion, created 1928 for the Exposition.
However, with modern construction processes it can be considered through the use of the idiom 'Devil is in the Detail', that many of the details are being over looked due to the time and cost restraints being imposed on the industry by the fast paced, all-consuming society that has arisen in modern society. Everything is demanded now, society expect items when they want them and for as low a price as possible; as a result the effect within the industry has been that, the details have been forgotten. The removal of time has resulted in construction teams beginning work before the design is complete and in some cases has resulted in errors and delays to the overall completion of the project. As a result of this time restraint, pressure has built on both the design teams and the construction teams to ensure a fully co-ordinated and functional building is constructed and handed over in the time allotted. Consequently, this pressure has caused friction within (the teams) and resulted in co-ordination failure. In order for projects to meet these ever more restrictive deadlines, co-ordination throughout the project must be as effective as possible.
Therefore, I wish to investigate how important it is for a design manager to ensure that co-ordination and communication occur, by managing the design processes on a project. Essentially, sitting just below a Project Manager in a site hierarchy, allows them to focus solely on the design, thus, allowing Project Manager to concentrate on the site and Construction Team's progress.
Aims and Objectives:
Through my research into this subject, I wish to highlight the need for co-ordinated Design Teams; Design Managers; consultation and the use of communicative media. I wish to show that high level co-ordination cannot be achieved without the constant interaction and exchanges between all of these areas.
Consequently, I wish to understand how the construction industry can progress further by promoting and developing communicative techniques by investing in media, such as extranets, to ensure that contractors are able to implement successful co-ordination in line with the progress made since the radical overhaul of the industry in the 1990's. Sir Michael Latham, with 'Constructing the team' (Latham, 1994), kick started the changes by outlining ideas that would aid those in procurement. The issuing of Sir John Egan's 'Rethinking Construction' (Egan, 1998) and 'Accelerating Change' (Egan, 2002) ultimately caused the industry to evolve further and it was this evolution that would guarantee the continuation and success of clear communication as we move into the future as an industry.
The primary aim of this investigation is to determine how co-ordination and communication have a high level impact on construction projects as a whole. I shall use prior research and theories to determine the information that has already been provided, with regards to both topics; as well as conducting my own research methods, to determine the true impacts of high level co-ordination.
Prior to conducting my research, I believe that co-ordination cannot function without communicating and thus believe communication has the largest impact on whether a Design Team can co-ordinate effectively. Therefore, within my investigation I will be researching into communication methods, and trying to find examples of communication breakdown that have ultimately led to co-ordination failures; as 'communication can be seen as cornerstone of future industrial improvement' (A.Dainty, 2006) and I wish to prove that without it the industry would fail. Techniques such as meetings, phone calls, email will also be assessed and through my own research, will determine the methods that are preferred within the industry today.
Moreover, I want to highlight how computer software and extranets, such as 4projects, a programme I have experience of, can be an effective co-ordination tool. This programme allows the co-ordination to occur between the entire Design Team through one system, whilst enabling the Design Manager to observe and control the information, comment on the information, approve it for construction and allow access to essential parties.
Overall, I wish to use data collected within the field to determine whether my current theories are correct, and as a result show how the construction industry can progress further. This, I believe, can be achieved by emphasising to site personnel and the Design Teams the importance of co-ordination and communication between one another improving efficiency at work.
What is a Design Manager?
There seems to be an agreement that the Design Manager's main tasks are to co-ordinate, manage and support the Design Team.
The Chartered Institute of Builders refer to the position as 'managing internal and external design consultant teams, controlling the development of the design concept into manufacturing and installation construction status information' (CIOB, 2012)
Gray & Hughes state that Design Managers are 'The manager responsible for co-ordinating the design task to ensure that information of the appropriate quality is delivered within the project time-scale to meet the needs of the design, manufacturing & construction process' (Gray, 2001)
Emmitt defines a Design Manager as someone used for 'information management or coordination function' cited in (Mills, 2009)
As well as agreeing on what a Design Manager does, many also agree on the characteristics a Design Manager must have or obtain in order to fulfil their role sufficiently.
Emmitt states 'Design Managers need the means and skills to steer design team communication in the most appropriate way for the team to be effective' (Gorse, 2007)
Tzortzopoulos & Cooper refer to Stanley and Barrett 1999, regarding the Design Manager's need 'to have the skills to understand a comprehensive set of requirements and to support their capture from the clients/users and construction teams.' (Barrett, 1999) As well as requiring 'communication skills, both verbal and visual, to coordinate the exchanges of information through design development' (Cooper, 2007)
Emmitt states that 'Design Management has been evolving since the 1960's' (Emmitt, 2007) due to the industry striving for better understanding of the design process. However, the role has continued to evolve dramatically over the last fifty years, and has become a significant role within the industry, which could be a consequence of 'Rethinking Construction' (Egan, 1998) and the emphasis placed on design to provide a stronger 'partnership' between client and contractor. As a result, Bibby suggests 'Improving design management practice within a design and construction organisation is a long term activity and must also overcome a range of barriers, not least the underlying company and construction industry culture' (Bibby, 2003) which suggests there is still potential for evolution within the role, and organisations have to embrace this evolution and invest in the long term use of Design Managers.
Design Managers perform the same role as a Project Manager but they will workÂ more closelyÂ with the design teams from pre-construction all the way to practical completion. They will coordinate multidisciplinary teams both internally and externally.' Design Mangers will have a design background, knowledge of contractual and building regulation obligations and exceptional coordination skills.' (Macdonald and Company, 2011)
I believe the questions that should be asked, is can we fully co-ordinate projects sufficiently without a design manager? And although it is extra personel do they save a contractor money on projects, and ultimately increase the companies profits in the long term?
If the answer to the first answer is no, then automatically the answer to the second should be yes. 'During the last decade, it has undergone an unprecedented period of self-examination, including input from most of the leaders of the major suppliers and clients as well as from leading politicians, civil servants and political advisers. From 1993 to 2003, government and industry collaborated closely to achieve political and structural change in the industry and to bring about nothing less than a re-organization of the way it undertakes its business.' (Routledge Taylor and Francis Group, 2006) And out of this self evaluation and full industry make over a relatively new role had evolved, the design manager. Choo emphasises the need for embrace, by stating 'Design should be planned, managed and controlled around the flow of information, rather than deliverables, if a co-ordinated and effective solution is to be found' (Choo, 2000), so can this be achieved without Design Managers? History would suggest not.
How important is it to have a Design Manager as part of the Design Team?
So what would people within the industry say when confronted with the question 'How important is a Design Manager?' The answer would be varied, due to the relatively new concept of the Design Manager, discussed in the previous section.
In 2010, the CIOB did just that and conducted a survey asking about Design Managers and their roles, and it confirmed that in the early stages of projects, a Design Manager can 'provide invaluable input on value management and form a springboard for innovation'. (CIOB, 2012)
With the recent industry trend to use Design and Build rather than more traditional methods of construction, the evolution of the Design Manager has advanced dramatically and some of the issues they may have to address are shown in Figure 1 below.
Figure : Design Management within the project framework (Emmitt, 2002)
The route to Design Management is not defined, many Design Managers have very different backgrounds; some are past architects, others engineers and some have been trained specifically to become Design Managers. However, regardless of their background, they must "anticipate where design can contribute value and how this can be realised" (Best, 2006). The fact that individuals have different backgrounds has helped to advance the role; contractors are able to utilise the key skills each individual has developed and locate them on projects where their skills are most advantageous. Emmitt defines, 'Design is a collective effort based on degrees of compromise and commitment, combining the skills and knowledge of wide range of individuals.' (Emmitt, 2007) and the construction sector itself as 'a fluid and dynamic collection of specialists'. And who is in charge of the management of these specialists? The Design Managers.
From the analysing the literature available with regards to Design Management, it would seem that all are in agreement that Design Managers are key to the success of projects. Therefore, the role is fundamental to the advance of the construction industry, and to the success of the companies within. Especially, with recent economic events that have occurred, the need for an individual in a Design Management capacity that can maintain and co-ordinate 'the flow of design to enable construction work to proceed efficiently, as well as facilitating cost control & buildability review processes' (Chevin, 2011) has become crucial to the survival and success of many firms.
'The construction industry is not a homogeneous industry, it is made up of many diverse and competing organisations and professional partnerships, the majority of whom are brought together for one, bespoke project, before transferring to the next' (Gorse, 2003) so how do these companies and partners come together and achieve a complete project which is on time and budget?
'Collaboration refers to cooperation with others, the uniting of labour to achieve a common objective.' (Emmitt, 2010), therefore, each individual is brought it to 'share their knowledge, hopefully resulting in an outcome that would not be possible working individually' (Emmitt, 2010). However, as with all forms of team work there is the age old problem, how do we get them to work together? How will they understand each other? Will they succeed?
Emmitt believes there are three project parameters which dictate whether a team will succeed or fail. These are illustrated in figure 2 shown below.
Figure : Project Parameters (Emmitt 2010)
Communication, Consensus and Conflict. If a team can communicate effectively, come together and decide upon decisions as a team and can interact with one another without causing tension, then Emmitt believes that the team has a higher chance of succeeding. Collaborative working is not a simple task; it takes a lot of effort from all parties involved to do what is best to achieve the completion of the project. However, if successfully managed the team can achieve 'co-ordinated results' (Dainty, 2006) they can also 'manange Change' and 'motivate the employees' (Dainty, 2006).
Co-ordinating projects has been apart of the Industry throughout its history. So why is it that co-ordination has not yet been corrected?
There are many reasons for failure within the construction industry, however on a large number of occasions it will result from issues that have occurred early on in a project and the failure to collaboratively work as team.
One theory is that contractors 'do not establish the co-ordination process, set the requirements or assign responsibilty where necessary' (Ingardia, 1998). If we do not lay down what is required or expected in a simple manner to all parties involved in the project then those parties work to different procedures and ways of thinking. As a result co-ordination has immediately broken down.
Another, and one of the largest contributing factors to any team is Trust. Trust has been highlighted in both the Latham (1994) and Egan (1998) reports as a major factor leading to the success or failure of construction projects. Without Trust, a team cannot function and conflict begins to occur. 'They have to trust that the people they work with will get things done when they say they will and to the standard they expect. If they are behaving as if they think people are not going to deliver, then there is no trust' (Khalfan, 2007). If however, Trust is developed it can be seen as 'a panacea for all types of organisational ills' (Walker, 2011).
But how do we build this trust?
Khalfan believes there are five main ways of building trust and they are as follows;
Experience - Working with people on a day-to-day basis.
Problem solving - sharing and solving problems helps communications.
Shared goals -A joint understanding of the roles and aims of project work.
Reciprocity - Team members supporting and rewarding each other's trusting behaviour.
Reasonable behaviour - Working fairly and professionally with the people in the project team.
Essentially, Khalfan is stating that we are able to build trust by working with people over time, unfortunately in the industry most teams are only together for the length of the project. However, if the trust has been developed the individuals in the team are more likely to want to work with one another again and are more likely to do further projects as a team. This is how supply chains are formed; the companies work for the contractor build up a good relationship and are trusted to work on projects with them again in the future.
Just as important as Trust in collaborative working is communication. 'Effective communication can be seen as the cornerstone of future industry improvement' (Dainty, 2006) without communication teams do not work. It is a well known fact in all respects that teams that succeed are those that communicate the most; and it is no different in construction. 'Communication is a familiar and essential charateristic of human societies, underpinning our personal and buisness relationships.' (Emmitt, 2010) To share, analise and interpret information and to offer knowledge to individuals communication is required.
At the Design stage of projects, the information has to be provided to ensure the design meets the client's requirements, it is practical and will meet the cost and time restaints. Then once on site, any changes have to relayed to the site team then on to the individual subcontract team; therefore, the information has to be communicated effectively and concisely. 'Research has consistantly shown that poor communication is the root cause of many problems in both organisations and projects' (Emmitt, 2010) and if the industry wants to improve and the organisations want to ensure their survival, they have to implement a strategy to ensure that communication is effectively achieved throughout the process, from tender right through to completition.
It is clear from the literature that a lot of research has been undertaken into collaborative working, and that I have only scratched the surface within my review. However, what I have found from this review is the need for a strong team bond and the need for either a strategy to put in place by the contractors which has to be adhered to or by having a figure present to ensure that collaboration does not fail. As it is clear, that if a project has a well organised, communicative core team, the projects run smoother and any errors that are found can be dealt with more easily. Thus, enhancing the chances of the project meeting the time restraints imposed and being on budget.
The term communication refers to 'the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium' (Press, 2012). Therefore, through communication, co-ordination can be achieved.
There are a number of ways in which a team can communicate; emails, telephone conversations, meetings and using web based systems such as 4projects or drop box. All of these items are mediums used to communicate and are used everyday within the construction industry. However, it is one thing to communicate, but it is another to use this communication to help achieve high level co-ordination. This means that the information that has been communicated, is being stored, processed and actioned upon as a direct result of a co-ordination chain or protocal which has been developed to be used on this particular project, by this particular company.
How we use communication tools can have a large effect on the outcome of our project. Co-ordination cannot function without communication; and its how we communicate with our team that can have long term effects on the co-ordination; it is the 'lifeblood of human activities - social, commercial or any other kind.' (Walker, 2011) In the past many projects were undertaken with the core team, lots of sending drawings back and forth taking up a lot of time; however with the development of modern age technologies and the internet, sending information and drawings has dramatically decreased the time waste waiting for information. On projects now, if information is needed we can pick up a phone or email the person who should have the answer, and get them to forward you the information directly to your computer for you to view in a couple of minutes.
It is interesting to note that Emmitt and Gorse (2003) do not believe there has been any noticable enhancement in communication performace within the construction industry in recent years, when evaluating the Pilot Study of Higgins and Jessop. They believe that the industry has 'a poor reputation for the manner in which its organisations and individuals communicate with one another.' (Gorse, 2003) They note that the Emmerson (1962), Banwell (1964), Latham (1994) and Egan (1998) reports all highlight 'the apparent lack of effective communication within the construction sector' (Gorse, 2003) a point which is also refered to by Higgins and Jessop (1965). Yet, there still seems to no intergration or fully functional teamwork developed which the reports highlight is needed. This is an area I feel needs to be investigated to ensure that through improved communication the industry can improve its coordination.
So how do we communicate?
'Team communication in the design of buildings is dependent on the willingness of all group members to act and react, listen and share, as well as develop their skills for using communication effectively' (Forsyth, 2006)
In a project environment, 'it is necessary to communicate with individuals representing a variety of organisations and interests.' (Emmitt, 2010) And this can be done in two ways, Synchronus and Asynchronus communication.
Synchronus communication is simply face to face or voice to voice communication. Which includes; meetings, telephone conversations, video conferencing. This form of communication is 'essential for addressing contentious issues, problem solving, conflict resolution, exploring values, developing trust and building relationships.' (Emmitt, 2010) It allows all parties to gain an understanding of a problem or concept which could not be realised via email. Essential to meet the defination of Team communication described by Forsyth (2006). The technique makes communication easier as, questions can be asked, problems found before the information has already been passed to the site team. The questions I feel should be asked is do we use enough Synchronus communication?
The alternative type of communication is Asynchronus. This is a far more informal system of communicating for example, through email or the use of an extranet system. It is useful for sending information that is required in next to no time at all. However, it cannot be certain that the information is interpreted correctly or that the individual has understood what has been asked of them. Therefore, the use of both communication techniques together would ensure that the information is correct, correctly understood and ensures that the communication between parties is as effective as possible.
As well as Synchronus and Asynchronus communication, there are also different levels of communication which can have a bearing on how well Design Teams function. These are Intrapersonal, Interpersonal, Group, Multigroup and Mass.
Intrapersonal is an 'internal communication process (cognition) that allows individuals to process information.' (Emmitt, 2010) Generally, this form of communication has only one person involved and the information is usually private. Emmitt referes to this as 'the black box' (Emmitt, 2010)as the information is not accessible to the team, and the agenda of that individual is hidden. This level of communication can cause friction within a Team and ultimately be a cause for communication breakdown.
Interpersonal communication is between two people having a conversation. It allows the individuals to 'establish, maintain and develop relationships'. (Emmitt, 2010) As conversation allows individuals to establish common ground through 'common understanding of terminology and language.' (Emmitt, 2010) This level of communication is important, as it is 'through interpersonal communication that we tend to make judgements regarding the trustworthiness of others.' (Emmitt, 2010)
Group communication occurs within Teams. 'These small groupings of individuals are usually able to develop effective communication quite quickly as they work towards a common objective.' (Emmitt, 2010) Team communication allows knowledge to be shared as 'Team members come from different organizations, which have different organizational cultures and thus information ecologies' (Davenport, 1997) with individuals 'having different levels of understanding, opinions, skills and rates of adoption of the available communication tools.' (Rogers, 2003)
Therefore, group communication allows all individuals to gain understanding from others, as the skills can be put into use to achieve the common goals, and any issues of understanding or trust between individuals can be corrected as all the members have a common goal to achieve.
Multigroup communication 'occurs within social systems such as organisations.' (Emmitt, 2010) This form of communication, often occurs with large companies which has separate Teams dedicated to diffeerent areas. This is also refered to as 'Intergroup' communication, as the individuals working within an individual group with often communicate together. This form of communication can have an effect on projects, as information received early on for example within the bidding departement of a company, does not get passed on to the Team involved with the Tender and a breakdown in communciation has occurred. Therefore, it is important that these individual Teams communicate with one another, to ensure that Projects have effective co-ordination from the off.
Finally, Mass communication this 'involves sending a message to large audineces. This may involve advertising through the mass media (Professional journals, newspapers, television, radio, internet) or the dissemination of important information, for example changes to health and safety legislation.' (Emmitt, 2010) This form of communication is effective at getting an important message to all personnel involved with a project. It ensures that all parties are aware of any changes of importance.
All of the above levels of communication have different functions, however, they are all equally important in ensuring that effective communication occurs and in 'limiting the amount of ineffective communication.' (Emmitt, 2010)
It is clear from my review of communication that it is highly important wihtin the industry. It is clear that with communicating effectively, that co-ordination will fail. However, through the use of converstation, media such as email and extranets and interacting with one another, a Team can successfully co-ordinate the Design, and Construction of a Project.
Therefore, if Teams are positive about achieveing their goals; they follow a communication method or protocal, and they maintain eachothers trust; Projects can be completed on time and budget.
The influence of BIM to coordinating a design team:
'Building Information Modelling (BIM) is the process of generating and managing data about the building, during its life cycle. Typically BIM uses three-dimensional, real-time, dynamic building modelling software to increase productivity in the design and construction stages.' (Electronic, 2008)
BIM has become one of the most talked about subjects within the construction industry in recent years. The ability to create a full 3D model which can highlight clashes, errors in design and potential difficulties that will be experienced on site; makes BIM the most talked about and potentially most advanced technique to be used within the industry.
The use of BIM will not only mean the use of 'consistent drawings, cost estimation and bills of material and clash detection' (Technology, 2009) but due to the fact that BIM is developed using software that has data input, it is possible to 'provide feedback while designing, informing the designer of the effects of changes or to explore the relative effect on alternatives.' (Technology, 2009) Thus, BIM has an impact on the way we coordinate the design and potentially has the ability to reduce errors within the design.
Mario Guttman, of HOK Architects states 'It's about the building industry using computers and new ways of working to be more efficient - and to create a better build environment.' In the last ten to fifteen years Information Technology (I.T) has advanced dramatically, society has become accustomed to the use of computers for everyday activities. And the construction industry has utilised this advanced use of I.T developing and using software such as 'computer aided design and drafting (CAD), building visualisation, design appraisal, project management, information storage and retrieval, cost estimating, structural analysis, on-site management and facilities management' (Sun, 2004).
The influence of the Egan report (1998) and the recommendations stated have resulted in the use of construction techniques such as 'Just in Time' (JIT) and as a result using 'Computer Aided Manufacturing' (CAM) and 'Computer Aided Design' (CAD) software to ensure items are designed and developed as when they are required. These changes have built the platform upon which BIM can be introduced into the industry; they advanced the industry in the 1990's when development was needed and now newer I.T is available to enable the next level of advancement within the industry. The use of 'a multi-dimensional computer model will portray and visually project the entire design and construction process' (Aouad, 2007) will enable the project teams to visualise the building prior to construction.
In order for this form of technique to succeed it will require those within the industry to provide the personnel involved with as much information as possible as early on in the project as possible. However, this cannot be guaranteed as this involves a high level of communication between all parties involved on the project as early as possible. But as researched earlier communication is 'subject to error' (Walker, 2011) and at this early stage is Trust developed? Will individuals keep information to themselves? These are the types of questions that need to be asked, as they prevent BIM working successfully in a project environment, and may be the reason why BIM has been a large talking point for the last few years but has not been implemented by the large contractors within the industry as yet.
Ultimately, BIM provides 'Better outcomes through collaboration; enhanced performance; optimised solutions; greater predictability; faster delivery; reduced safety risk and continual improvement ' (Group, 2012) and as a result has potential to improve coordination within projects and improve the way companies communicate with one another when working in collaboration. BIM can be used for 'cost estimation and bills of material and clash detection' (Technology, 2009) but there are questions that remain; is the industry ready to use BIM? Ready to radically change the way in which Design and Build is undertaken? Or should the industry look to improve co-ordination in other ways?
Overall the research shows that BIM has become such a large agenda, as it has created debate within the industry. There are those who are in favour of the implantation, and there are those who oppose it. BIM is going to be something that the industry will eventually utilise; but until it does, we must look to making improvements through improved communication, collaboration, co-ordination and taking some extra time to ensure errors are removed. And once BIM has been accepted by all it can be introduced and take the industry into further advancement.
The research undertaken was framed by the following questions:
What is the importance of developing high level co-ordination and communication on construction projects?
What are the effects of a Design Managers influence over the co-ordination and communication of construction projects generally?
How can a variety of different communication tools aid the co-ordination of construction projects?
What do we mean by research?
A daunting question. 'Research is a systematic, critical and self-critical enquiry which aims to contribute towards the advancement of knowledge and wisdom.' (Bassey, 1999) And extension of skills through a close engagement with some specific aspect of the world creating new connections using a scientific approach to explore an issue; answer a question; or solve a problem. Using a systematic process of collecting information researchers develop new insights, gain fuller knowledge and a deeper understanding of the subject by reviewing and revising different accepted theories (deductive approach), or generating new ones (inductive approach), in the light of new facts, whilst exploring and evaluating the effectiveness of various methods and approaches used, and learning from other's experiences to establish evidence and reach conclusions.
Many research definitions aim to demystify its unpredictable, complex character giving it meaning by highlighting the key elements that underpin its very nature. Bassey (1999) definition includes the pivotal terms: systematic, critical and self-critical - implying research is methodical and organised, open to the examination and judgement of others, and the analysis and reassessment of the researcher. Others understand research as: a spiralling progression whereby the researcher revisits various stages of the research process with different and more developed insights (Blaxter et al, 2010)); 'a structured enquiry that utilises acceptable scientific methodology to solve problems' (Grinnell, 1993) , or a way of thinking, about questioning your practice using pragmatic examination designed to be unbiased and objective in order to find answers (Kumar (2005)). However, 'to qualify as research; it must, as far as possible, be controlled, rigorous, systematic, valid and verifiable, empirical, and critical.' (Kumar, 2005)
Why do we do research?
Living in an ever changing uncertain world means research is becoming increasing more important for its essential methodologies, approaches and tools with which to satisfy our deeper intellectual curiosity. The opportunity to engage in research is invaluable allowing the researcher to review and synthesise existing knowledge by indulging in a highly focused journey of enquiry and intense reflection immersing themselves in, what (Gray, 2010) sees as the history, method approaches, theories and findings whilst becoming familiar with the problems, debates and arguments helping them clarify their own concerns and research focus. Through research researchers become 'more confident and articulate' discussing issues giving them 'a stronger voice' and 'an enhanced sense of professionalism.' (Frost, 2009) . The research process formulates validating experiences creating incremental and cascading changes challenging actions and thinking, formulating more informed decisions 'going beyond competing ideologies, to offer the possibilities of changes in our thinking and practices.' (Zuber-Skerritt, 2006), strengthening and advancing professionalism leading to the improvements and expansion of our knowledge base 'with a view to instituting appropriate changes for a more effective professional service.' (Kumar, 2005).
Forms of Research
A case study should encapsulate the complexity of a single case (organisation, individual or group study) with (Stake, 1994) highlighting the interest in the individual cases, while (Yin, 1994) places more emphasis on the methods and techniques used. However, the essence of case study research methodology is 'thick description' triangulation improving validity through a combination of qualitative and quantitative approaches offering a multitude of measurements, methods, strategies and theories on different levels, addressing the issues being investigated.
'Case study research consists of a detailed investigation, often with data collected over a period of time, of phenomena, within their context.' (Hartley, 2004) To which (Johansson, 2003) notes encompass many variables and qualities both explicative and reductive. Case studies aspire to examine research questions and issues by setting them in contextual, often causal context, and are suited to research questions which require detail using a combination of participant or direct observations, ethnography, semi-structured or unstructured interviews, focus groups.
Generally an interpretive perspective action research is regarded as a tool for professional development and 'an agent of change.' (Gray, 2010) differing from other research approaches as the qualitative data collected, in the form of words or images, is employed to interpret the practitioner's beliefs about the social world generating theory from data analysis to improve practice. Change, an integral part of the research process, enhances practitioner's knowledge through what (McNiff, 2010) state involves interrogation, deconstruction and decentring of informed actions, turning practice into praxis.
Action research is holistic, small scale, practice-based research with a strong emphasis on the practitioner identifying and questioning the reasons and motives for the action; studying the problem systematically; ensuring intervention is informed by theory; spending time refining the changes to suit the needs of the situation by collecting, analysing and presenting data on an on-going cyclical basis, feeding directly back into practice. Professionals use action research 'to bridge the gap between research and practice.' (Somekh, 1995) in education, organisational development, health and social care where it provides 'an obvious means of facilitating change.' (Robson, 2002) for dealing with practical work-based improvements and reforms. Consequently, action research easily lends itself to interviews, questionnaires, observations, focus groups, reflective journals, document analysis, and workplace reports/data.
The disadvantages of using action research are: the limited scope and scale affecting the extent of the generalisations made; the integration of research with practice limiting the manipulation of controls and variables; the practitioner's extra workload; its participatory nature making ownership contestable and less clear-cut; the practitioner's aims and values affecting impartiality.