A Mangle Perspective of a Theoretically Plural Action Research Case Study

Dawn P Gilbert, Mike Yearworth

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


This case study describes an exploratory application of a developing theory to an industrial context. In this case, as in many OR interventions, the beliefs, opinions, and preferred paradigm of stakeholders affected by OR practice were diverse. Extant Problem Structuring Methods provide approaches we can employ when working with a gathering of these stakeholders. The case study examined in this paper involved three diverse groups of stakeholders who did not gather together, rather were engaged with in a series of 1:1 sessions. We chose to characterise our stakeholder groups along philosophical grounds as follows; i) the positivist-driven group, ii) the constructivist-driven group, and iii) the critical realist group. The basis of our characterisation was observation of their language, the nature of the goals, and preferred methods used by each group.
The need to work with individual, yet diverse stakeholder perspectives and beliefs drove the need for theoretical pluralism within the action research activity itself, while the ongoing engagement with each individual stakeholder focussed only on one paradigm. The exploration delivered satisfactory outcomes to each stakeholder. A summary of how each stakeholder perspective drove the use of a particular combination of data and methods to add to knowledge could be summarised using the style of a scientific paper, however, for the interested OR practitioner, much detail and many nuances of the elaborate interweaving of methodologies and methods employed would be lost. We describe the theoretically plural research that was carried out using Pickering’s concept of the mangle of practice, as an approach to present the case study in a more informative way, as recently espoused by Ormerod. We also reflect on the mangle of practice approach to writing in particular with reference to its ability to illustrate the use of theoretical pluralism.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationOR56 Annual Conference
Publication statusIn preparation - 2014
EventThe OR Society OR56 Conference - Royal Holloway University of London, Egham, Surrey, United Kingdom
Duration: 9 Sep 201411 Sep 2014


ConferenceThe OR Society OR56 Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityEgham, Surrey


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