Current proposals for combining action research and design science start with a concrete problem in an organization, then apply an artifact to improve the problem, and finally reflect on lessons learned. The aim of these combinations is to reduce the tension between relevance and rigor. This paper proposes another way of using action research in design science, which starts with an artifact, and then tests it under conditions of practice by solving concrete problems with them. The aim of this way of using action research in design science is to bridge the gap between the idealizations made when designing the artifact and the concrete conditions of practice that occur in real-world problems.
The paper analyzes the role of idealization in design science and compares it with the requirements of rigor and relevance. It then proposes a way of bridging the gap between idealization and practice by means of action research, called technical action research (TAR) in this paper. The core of TAR is that the researcher plays three roles, which must be kept logically separate, namely of artifact developer, artifact investigator, and client helper. Finally, TAR is compared to other approaches of using action research in design science, and with canonical action research.