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Action Research

What is it

Aims to address both the practical concerns of people (in a community, organisation etc) and the goals of research through people working together on projects. Action research is a way to increase understanding of how change in one's actions or practices can mutually benefit a community of practitioners (McNiff, 2002; Reason & Bradburym, 2001; Carr & Kremmis 1986; Masters, 1995). Actions have a set goal to address an identified problem using a systematic cyclical method of planning, taking action, observing, evaluating (including self-evaluation) and critical reflecting prior to planning the next action stage (O'Brien, 2001; McNiff, 2002). It is a collaborative method to test new ideas and implement action for change because it involves direct participation in a dynamic research process, while monitoring and evaluating the effects of the researcher's actions with the aim of improving practice (Dick, 2002; Checkland & Holwell, 1998; Hult & Lennung, 1980). Action Research is different than other forms of research as there is less concern for universality of the finding and more value placed on the relevance of the findings to the researcher and the local collaborators.  


When do you use it

Action research is a popular method used to teach participants and communities to explore, challenge, and react to their own needs.


What do you need to know

Critical reflection is at the heart of Action Research and when this reflection is based on careful examination of evidence from multiple perspectives, it can provide an effective strategy for improving ways of learning, working and the organisational (or community) climate. It is not useful when: the answer is known and just needs to be 'proven'; in situations that will have simple yes/no answers; or when the answer can be found through literature research.



Literature research can set the professional context for the Action Learning process. The local context can be established through participant input. Action research takes time to train and acclimatise community researchers.


Where can I get more information



What are the resource implications

Action Research can involve a number of other methods, such as focus groups, visioning sessions, role playing, site visits and workshops. Many of these require skilled experienced facilitators to be successful. At its most basic, documenting progress and using feedback are methods that are most effective and low cost.


Examples and case studies


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