The purpose of mess in action research: building rigour though a messy turn

Tina Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

110 Citations (Scopus)


Mess and rigour might appear to be strange bedfellows. This paper argues that the purpose of mess is to facilitate a turn towards new constructions of knowing that lead to transformation in practice (an action turn). Engaging in action research - research that can disturb both individual and communally held notions of knowledge for practice - will be messy. Investigations into the 'messy area', the interface between the known and the nearly known, between knowledge in use and tacit knowledge as yet to be useful, reveal the 'messy area' as a vital element for seeing, disrupting, analysing, learning, knowing and changing. It is the place where long-held views shaped by professional knowledge, practical judgement, experience and intuition are seen through other lenses. It is here that reframing takes place and new knowing, which has both theoretical and practical significance, arises: a 'messy turn' takes place.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-291
JournalEducational Action Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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