As researchers, we often want to make material and social changes through our work. There are concrete ways to achieve this, many of which are not taught in traditional university methods courses where many (though not all) of us are trained.

Action-based research is about making material and social change during our research, through methods and methodologies, rather than after data has been collected. Some are explicitly activist, while others might be about making more ethical collaborations.

Such methods are particularly relevant to discard studies, since our field studies something that is seen as harmful and/or in need of management. Whether we study pollution, trash, waste, toxicants, disposables, contaminants, excluded groups, or other externalities, our research tends to move towards an “ought.” It’s a small jump to wanting to intervene in those systems.

A new website called “Action-Based Research Methods” has a bibliography on a wide array of action-based research topics, from quantitative Marxism to participatory mapping. All texts in the bibliography focus on how to carry out a method, rather than philosophical or critical appraisals of methods. Here are a few that are likely of interest to those of us who study waste and wasting:

There are many, many others, and you can search by method, methodology, or topic. Enjoy!