Psychology Action Research
Geoffrey Maruyama, Martin Van Boekel
  • LAST REVIEWED: 08 May 2015
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 January 2014
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0149


Unlike many areas of psychology, “action research” does not possess a single definition or evoke a single meaning for all researchers. Most action research links back to work initiated by a group of researchers led by Kurt Lewin (see Lewin 1946 and Lewin 1951, both cited under Definition). Lewin is widely viewed as the “father” of action research. Lewin is certainly deserving of that recognition, for conceptually driven research done by Lewin and colleagues before and during World War II addressed a range of practical issues while also helping to develop theories of attitude change. The work was guided by Lewin’s field theory. Part of what makes Lewin’s work so compelling and what has led to different variations of action research is his focus on action research as a philosophy about research as a vehicle for creating social advancement and change. He viewed action research as collaborative and engaging practitioners and policymakers in sustainable partnerships that address critical societal issues. At about the time that Lewin and his group were developing their perspective on action research, similar work was being conducted by Bion and colleagues in the British Isles (see Rapoport 1970, cited under Definition), again tied to World War II and issues like personnel selection and emotional impacts of war and incarceration. That work led to creation of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, which has sustained a focus on action research throughout the postwar era of experimental (social) psychology. This article’s focus, however, will stay largely with Lewin and the action research traditions his writings and work created. Those include many variations of action research, most notably participatory action research and community-based participatory research. Cassell and Johnson 2006 (cited under Definition) describe different types of action research and the epistemologies and assumptions that underlie them, which helps explain how different traditions and approaches have developed.


Lewin 1946 described action research as “a comparative research on the conditions and effects of various forms of social action, and research leading to social action” (p. 203), clearly engaged, change-oriented work. Lewin also went on to say, “Above all, it will have to include laboratory and field-experiments in social change” (p. 203). Post-positivist and constructivist researchers who draw their roots from Lewin should acknowledge his underlying positivist bent. They tend to focus more on his characterizing research objectives as being of two types: identifying general laws of behavior, and diagnosing specific situations. Much academic research has focused on identifying general laws and ignored the local conditions that shape outcomes, paying little attention to specific situations. In contrast, Lewin argued for the combining of “experts in theory,” researchers, with “experts in practice,” practitioners and others familiar with local conditions and how they can affect plans and theories, in order to understand the setting and to design studies likely to be effective. A fundamental part of action research that appeals to all variants of action research is building partnerships with practitioners, which Lewin 1946 described as “the delicate task of building productive, hard-hitting teams with practitioners . . .” (p. 211). These partnerships according to Lewin need to survive through several cycles of planning, action, and fact-finding. As action research has evolved and “split” into the streams mentioned in the initial section of this article, it has been interpreted in different ways, typically tied to how researchers interact with and share responsibility throughout the research process with practitioners (Aguinis 1993).

  • Aguinis, H. 1993. Action research and scientific method: Presumed discrepancies and actual similarities. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 29.4: 416–431.

    DOI: 10.1177/0021886393294003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Suggests that action research is application of the scientific method and fact-finding to applied settings, done in collaboration with partners. Views action research and the traditional scientific approaches not as discrepant as often they are made out to be. Does a good job of presenting historical development of action research, including perspectives of others contrasting action research and traditional experimental research, as well as presenting his perspective.

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    • Cassell, C., and P. Johnson. 2006. Action research: Explaining the diversity. Human Relations 54.6: 783–814.

      DOI: 10.1177/0018726706067080Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This article outlines five categories of action research. Each category is discussed in terms of the underlying philosophical assumptions and the research techniques utilized. Importantly, the authors discuss the difficulties in using one set of criteria to evaluate the success of an action research approach, proposing that due to the different philosophical assumptions different criteria must be used.

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      • Lewin, K. 1946. Action research and minority problems. Journal of Social Issues 2:34–46.

        DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1946.tb02295.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        This article includes Lewin’s original definition of action research listed above, as well as addressing the different research objectives, studying general laws and diagnosing specific situations. This article also appears as chapter 13 in K. Lewin, Resolving Social Conflicts (New York: Harper, 1948), pp. 201–216. Resolving Social Conflicts also was republished in 1997 (reprinted 2000) by the American Psychological Association in a single volume along with Field Theory in Social Science.

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        • Lewin, K. 1951. Field theory in social science: Collected theoretical papers. Edited by D. Cartwright. New York: Harper.

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          Papers in this volume rarely address action research directly, but lay the groundwork for it through field theory, which recognizes that behavior results from the interaction of individuals and environments, B = f(P, E). To explain and change behaviors, researchers need to develop and understand general laws and apply them to specific situations and individuals. The book is a compilation of his papers, with edits done by Dorwin (Doc) Cartwright after Lewin’s death.

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          • Rapoport, R. N. 1970. Three dilemmas of action research. Human Relations 23:499–513.

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            Rapoport provides excellent historical background on the work of Bion and colleagues, which led to creation of the Tavistock Institute. Describes links between Lewin’s Group Dynamics center and Tavistock. Describes action research as a professional relationship and not service.

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            General Overviews

            This section presents studies that address action research broadly and introduces readers to the types of psychological research called action research and what it entails. Lewin 1946 (cited under Definition) was among the early advocates articulating the importance of social research involving integration of different fields of study (psychology, sociology, etc) as well as the community to conduct research that results in solutions or “social action” rather than only publications. This aspect of action research is not discussed in the previous section Definition, but there is potentially great power that could come from interdisciplinary groups each bringing their disciplinary knowledge and methods to bear on social problems, and working with practitioners who bring their knowledge. Action research certainly has become interdisciplinary, but, as argued by Brydon-Miller, et al. 2003, not so much within research studies as across them. Action research ideas have, for example, taken hold in educational (participatory action research, PAR) and health sciences (community-based participatory research, CBPR) research. But, as discussed by Cassell and Johnson 2006, cited under Definition, they each have developed in their own ways, leaving action research as a somewhat fragmented research area (Susaman and Evered 1978). A second effect has been that the types of approaches and research articulated by Lewin are not what is thought about first when many researchers think about action research. Chein, et al. 1948 is most representative of a traditional Lewinian approach and perspective. The diverse perspectives likely guarantee that no matter how we describe action research, we will face disagreement from some colleagues who will think we have misrepresented action research.

            • Brydon-Miller, M., D. Greenwood, and P. Maguire. 2003. Why action research? Action Research 1:9–28.

              DOI: 10.1177/14767503030011002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              In this article the editorial board of Action Research reflects on their experiences using action research. The article touches on different dimensions of research, the process, as well as the challenges facing action researchers. This article is a good source for identifying key AR researchers.

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              • Chein, I., S. W. Cook, and J. Harding. 1948. The field of action research. American Psychologist 3.2: 43–50.

                DOI: 10.1037/h0053515Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                This article outlines four varieties of action research: diagnostic, participant, empirical, and experimental. Examples are provided to demonstrate the utility and difficulties of utilizing action research.

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                • Susaman, G., and R. Evered. 1978. An assessment of the scientific merits of action research. Administrative Science Quarterly 23:582–603.

                  DOI: 10.2307/2392581Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  Takes a different approach to science than positivist viewpoint. The authors are more concerned with knowledge that is dependent on the situation which arises as a need to help members in a community solve a particular problem.

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                  Reference Works

                  Action research is popular in part because it is explicit about the role of research in social action. In the words of Chein, et al. 1948 (cited under General Overviews), it is “a field which developed to satisfy the needs of the socio-political individual who recognizes that, in science, he can find the most reliable guide to effective action, and the needs of the scientist who wants his labors to be of maximal social utility as well as of theoretical significance” (pp. 43–44) There are two distinct parts to the quotation, with the second less focused on political motivations. Not all researchers who work collaboratively with practitioners must have a social agenda, as noted by Chein, et al., so it seems counterproductive to restrict it completely in that way. At the same time, for many action researchers, it is important to recognize that action research is more than a method or approach, but a philosophy about how meaningful research is done. Such researchers believe that action and engaged research is very important, has potential for developing better understandings of how and when theories work, and warrants greater attention from funders and “mainstream” journals. Action research has produced a substantial number of texts, some focusing on the methods and underlying approaches of action research, others on specific uses of action research methods in applied settings. A number of the more prominent texts are listed in this section, along with Brown and Tandon 1993, an article contrasting action research and participatory research. All of them are worthwhile reading for individuals interested in building a broad understanding of the domain of action research. Reason and Bradbury 2000 and Reason and Bradbury 2008 are handbooks of action research; the second edition of Reason and Bradbury 2000 includes different authors from the first, so they should be viewed as distinct and perhaps as first and second volumes rather than as first and second editions. Greenwood and Levin 2007 provides a good overview of action research. Kemmis and McTaggart 1990 and Stringer 1999 both provide guidelines for researchers wanting to conduct an action research study.

                  • Brown, L., and R. Tandon, 1993. Ideology and political economy in inquiry: Action research and participatory research. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 19.3: 277–294.

                    DOI: 10.1177/002188638301900306Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Article compares and contrasts action research, participatory research, and traditional research. The authors note that while values underlying action research and participatory research may be similar, they vary in how their ideologies interact with the political economy of inquiry framing the research. Ends with a discussion on when each approach to research may be most appropriate.

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                    • Greenwood, D., and M. Levin, eds. 2007. Introduction to action research: Social research for social change. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

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                      The book is organized into four parts. Part one defines AR, then explores the history and outlines three AR examples. Part two explores AR in terms of scientific inquiry, noting the multi-method approach to research necessary. Part three discusses several approaches to AR. Final section focuses on educating action researchers, and discusses the relationship between AR and democratic process.

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                      • Kemmis, S., and R. McTaggart, eds. 1990. The action research planner. 3d ed. Victoria, Australia: Deakin Univ. Press.

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                        This book is intended for educators wishing to conduct action research. The authors provide useful guidance across all aspects in conducting an AR project, covering topics from theoretical concerns, planning and monitoring projects, and reflecting on results. This book will be particularly useful for those new to “insider” AR.

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                        • Reason, P., and H. Bradbury, eds. 2000. Handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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                          A collection of writings from some of the best known action researchers, covering topics such as the foundations of AR, variations of AR, exemplars of AR in practice, and competencies necessary for AR. A valuable resource for all those involved in action research or wishing to learn more.

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                          • Reason, P., and H. Bradbury, eds. 2008. The Sage handbook of action research: Participative inquiry and practice. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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                            A second edition in name only, it contains all new articles organized using the same sections, and again very useful. One should not think of these editions as redundant.

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                            • Stringer, E. 1999. Action research. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

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                              An accessible guide to conducting an AR project. This book is a useful read for those wishing to engage in either insider or outsider AR.

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                              Action research was designed by Lewin to counter the “costly, inefficient, and limited method of trial and error” (Lewin 1951, p. 159, cited under Definition) for social interventions by integrating theory with practice. It yielded his most famous quote: “the need for close cooperation between theoretical and applied psychology. This can be accomplished in psychology. . . if the theorist does not look toward applied problems with a highbrow aversion or with a fear of social problems, and if the applied psychologist realizes that there is nothing so practical as a good theory” (p. 159). Certainly, the last part of the quotation is most often cited and one of the most famous quotes in psychology. But the preceding statement, directed at basic psychologists, is as important, for Lewin was one of the first to “call out” psychologists to be relevant. See also Blum 1955. At its inception, action research was the embodiment of what now is called engaged research, with researchers building partnerships with practitioners and policymakers to employ theory to improve everyday lives. Hodgkinson 1957 provides a different perspective on the history. Despite some early work by major figures within psychology like Coch and French 1948, within mainstream psychology as noted by Schon 1995, action research languished for reasons both political—it became viewed as activist science, and practical—it was developed as an era of experimentation and theory development was occurring, and it was largely ignored by the experimentalists. Over time it evolved and was picked up in applied research areas like health and education, and adopted a more explicit activist orientation often tied to critical theory approaches (see, e.g., Boog 2003). So what came “back” to the social sciences was a range of approaches and epistemologies that labeled themselves action research. The section Approaches discusses and illustrates the range of approaches called action research. Although they vary, among the common threads is the idea that action research is not missionary work, but a quid pro quo where researchers add to existing knowledge about social phenomena and about theories, and practitioners improve their practice.

                              • Blum, Fred H. 1955. Action research—A scientific approach? Philosophy of Science 22:1–7.

                                DOI: 10.1086/287381Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                Provides another nice statement of traditional action research, noting that it requires researcher self-awareness and respect, and “combines ability for clear scientific thought with a human feeling for the people who are part of our research” (p. 2). That thinking must be manifested in the research, through its “with people” rather than “for people” approach. Also discusses relation of values and research.

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                                • Boog, B. 2003. The emancipatory character of action research: Its history and the present state of the art. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology 13:426–438.

                                  DOI: 10.1002/casp.748Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  Provides a history of action research extending back to Dewey, following development of AR across North America and Europe. Pragmatic action research, cooperative inquiry, critical action research, and systems thinking grounded research are defined. Six similarities across approaches are outlined. Represents a greater politicization of action research and ties to critical theory approaches. Contains useful recommendations for engaging in action research.

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                                  • Coch, L., and J. R. P. French. 1948. Overcoming resistance to change. Human Relations 1.4: 512–532.

                                    DOI: 10.1177/001872674800100408Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    An early action research experimental study on ways of overcoming resistance to change in work settings. Designed several treatment conditions in conjunction with practitioners and had a “control” condition.

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                                    • Hodgkinson, Harold L. 1957. Action research: A critique. Journal of Educational Sociology 31.4: 137–153.

                                      DOI: 10.2307/2264741Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      Hodgkinson provides a different history as well as describing a different type of research, discussing what also is called practitioner-centered action research or participatory action research. He links it back to Dewey, James, and others, and focuses on the field of education rather than on psychology. Illustrates the split of action research away from the approaches advocated by Lewin.

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                                      • Lewin, K. 1946. Action research and minority problems. Journal of Social Issues 2:34–46.

                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1946.tb02295.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        This article is pointed to as the first English-language public description of action research, articulating several key elements of action research, including cycles of planning, action, and “fact finding,” which we might think of as research or evaluation. See also chapter 13 in K. Lewin, Resolving Social Conflicts (New York: Harper, 1948), pp. 201–216.

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                                        • Schon, D. A. 1995. Knowing in action: The new scholarship requires a new epistemology. Change 27 (6 November–December): 26–34.

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                                          Argues that universities have epistemologies, largely technical rationality, which do not particularly value action approaches, and likely will result in conflict with those other epistemologies. Proposes action research—raising important community issues whose investigation may lead to generalization; integrating by synthesizing findings into larger, more comprehensive understandings; generating knowledge for action; and creating new intellectual understandings through application.

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                                          The subsections here each describe a variant of action research. Cassell and Johnson 2006, cited under Definition provides a comparison across different types of action research, arguing that the philosophical stance of the researchers shapes the type of action research in which they engage. The subsections begin with the action research approaches most closely aligned with the work that Lewin and colleagues did (see Traditional Action Research), and then follow with the variations.

                                          Traditional Action Research

                                          Bargal 2008 and Bargal, et al. 1992 follow directly from work of Lewin and his colleagues. It is driven by shared interest in a social problem or situation between researchers and practitioners. The researcher works with practitioners and people in the setting, developing a partnership to understand what is happening and to determine how to address the problem. As illustrated in Friedman and Rogers 2009, the research partnership weaves in theory as well as understanding of local conditions. It typically implements some type of intervention, collects data so that its effects can be evaluated, refines the approach, and continues with a revised intervention. See, for example, Peters and Robinson 1984. Over time, the partnership develops, making the work an emergent process that both improves practice and adds to knowledge. Although in some instances the researchers are brought in as experts to lead the designing of the research, we would argue that a more typical variant is one where researchers and practitioners jointly plan and conduct the research. Dickens and Watkins 1999 provides a more recent orientation to this type of action research, focused on business and management applications. Perhaps ironically, this latter type is represented well by a paper by Greenwood, et al. 1993 even though it describes the authors’ work as participatory action research.

                                          • Bargal, D. 2008. Action research: A paradigm for achieving social change. Small Group Research 39.1: 17–27.

                                            DOI: 10.1177/1046496407313407Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            In this article Bargal outlines the eight key principles of action research based on Lewin’s writings.

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                                            • Bargal, D., M. Gold, and M. Lewin. 1992. Introduction: The heritage of Kurt Lewin. Journal of Social Issues 48.2: 3–13.

                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1992.tb00879.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              This is the lead article from a special issue dedicated to exploring the influence of Kurt Lewin. The special issue is broken into four main sections covering a reflection on Lewin’s life and work, a review of field theory, social issues research, and the implications of action research with respect to planned change.

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                                              • Dickens, L., and K. Watkins. 1999. Action research: Rethinking Lewin. Management Learning 30.2: 127–140.

                                                DOI: 10.1177/1350507699302002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                Good review of Lewianian approach and distinction between AR and PAR. Heavily focused on business and management applications

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                                                • Friedman, V., and T. Rogers. 2009. There is nothing so theoretical as good action research. Action Research 7.1: 31–47.

                                                  DOI: 10.1177/1476750308099596Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  The authors discuss the importance of utilizing and testing theory in AR. Six guidelines for developing theory while conducting AR are provided along with a case study exemplifying these guidelines in action.

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                                                  • Greenwood, D. J., W. F. Whyte, and I. Harkavy. 1993. Participatory action research as a process and as a goal. Human Relations 46.2: 175–192.

                                                    DOI: 10.1177/001872679304600203Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    This article focuses on what the authors call participatory action research. They describe an emergent process that links participation, social action, and knowledge generation. Our reading of their article suggests to us that despite its language, it follows from Lewinian traditions.

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                                                    • Peters, M., and U. Robinson. 1984. The origin and status of action research. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science 20:113–124.

                                                      DOI: 10.1177/002188638402000203Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      Attempts to integrate disparate articles on action research. Summarizes Lewin’s views from his writings and compares them with other writings—largely a comparison of what became participatory action research with those holding a more Lewinian approach that included the search for general laws, and concludes that action research had not attained paradigm status.

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                                                      Participatory Action Research

                                                      Participatory action research (PAR) has been the most widely used variant of action research over the past three or four decades (e.g., Brydon-Miller 1997). Fals Borda 2001 provides a look at its history and development. As is true of all types of action research, there is much variability in what is called PAR (e.g., Baum, et al. 2006). Among the common elements across types is a sustained commitment to addressing issues and viewing the research partnership as an unfolding, emergent process in which understandings and knowledge expand over time. McTaggart 1991 provides a larger list of PAR features. As noted by Kidd and Kral 2005, there usually is an underlying commitment to social change and to being open and respectful of the partners and participants in the research. Some variants calling themselves PAR approaches are very close to Lewin’s type of action research where control over the planning and conducting of the research is shared among researchers and members of the organization under study. In other types of PAR, some of the participants are included in the planning and conducting of the research. The Fine, et al. 2003 prison education study cited under Exemplars is a good example of the latter type of research. And in still other variants, the researchers cede control of the research to the practitioners, acting more as advisors as the practitioners conduct the research and even analyze and interpret the data. Variants of the latter two types are sometimes referred to as critical PAR, for they draw from critical theory. An exploration of the roots of critical PAR can be found in Torre, et al. 2012. Critical PAR research is more likely to be qualitative, conducted using interviews or observation; in such instances, community members who share perspectives of the respondents may be better able to interpret the responses than can a researcher not familiar with the community. In contrast, the former two types are likely to include mixed methods, a combination of quantitative and qualitative research. Fine and Torre 2004, Kidd and Kral 2005, and Smith, et al. 2010 address challenges in conducting PAR.

                                                      • Baum, F., C. MacDougall, and D. Smith. 2006. Participatory action research. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 60.10: 854–885.

                                                        DOI: 10.1136/jech.2004.028662Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        A glossary defines concepts related to participatory action research. This article focuses on issues regarding the application of PAR in the health field, and defines key issues particularly salient for researchers in psychology.

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                                                        • Brydon-Miller, M. 1997. Participatory action research: Psychology and social change. Journal of Social Issues 53.4: 657–666.

                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1997.tb02454.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          This article begins with an overview of the history of participatory action research. The three basic guidelines/tenets that characterize PAR are discussed, as are several examples of the use of PAR in psychology.

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                                                          • Fals Borda, O. 2001. Participatory (action) research in social theory: Origins and challenges. In Handbook of action fesearch: Participative inquiry and practice. Edited by P. Reason and H. Bradbury, 27–37. London: SAGE.

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                                                            This article appears in Handbook of Action Research (Reason and Bradbury 2008, cited under Reference Works. It was included in this section because it presents an interesting discussion of the development of PAR. It cites many of the important figures from the early days of PAR.

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                                                            • Fine, M., and M. E. Torre. 2004. Remembering exclusions: Participatory action research in public institutions. Qualitative Research in Psychology 1.1: 15–37.

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                                                              The authors use two PAR projects to outline processes involved in PAR, offering a description of several design frameworks for PAR research. Importantly, this article discusses many issues within PAR research such as ethical considerations and generalizability.

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                                                              • Kidd, S., and M. Kral. 2005. Practicing participatory action research. Journal of Counseling Psychology 52.2: 187–195.

                                                                DOI: 10.1037/0022-0167.52.2.187Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                This article begins with a good definition of PAR, followed by a description of the need for the appropriate attitude in order to engage in PAR. Due to the dynamic nature of PAR, researchers must be open, respectful, and genuine in order to successfully engage and work with the community. Importance of action/outcome highlighted. PAR approach challenges are outlined (balance of power, dealing with disagreements, potential time consumption, and problems surrounding evaluation of PAR research).

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                                                                • McTaggart, R. 1991. Principles for participatory action research. Adult Education Quarterly 41.3: 168–187.

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                                                                  This article outlines nine key principles of participatory action research. The article then places these principles into context through the examination of two examples of PAR from northern Australian Aboriginal communities.

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                                                                  • Smith, L., L. Bratini, D. Chambers, R. Jensen, and L. Romero. 2010. Between idealism and reality: Meeting challenges of participatory action research. Action Research 8.4: 407–425.

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                                                                    The authors use three PAR experiences to highlight challenges that may arise when engaging in collaborative community-based research. Issues such as micropolitics in the community, relationship building, and power are discussed.

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                                                                    • Torre, M. E., M. Fine, B. Stoudt, and M. Fox. 2012. Critical participatory action research as public science. In The handbook of qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design. 2d ed. Edited by P. Camic and H. Cooper, 171–184. Washington, DC: American Psychology Association.

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                                                                      The authors take a unique perspective exploring the development of critical PAR through its roots in early participatory research. Discussions of the underlying epistemological beliefs and validity evidence in critical PAR are presented.

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                                                                      Feminist Participatory Action Research

                                                                      An important and very active “spin off” of participatory action research is work that combines feminism and feminist theories with PAR (see Brydon-Miller, et al. 2004). This work in particular focuses on what can be gained by focusing on power dynamics and “cultural” practices that predominate within PAR research (e.g., Maguire 1987 and Maguire 1996), taking as do some others using PAR a critical theory approach, but focused on gender and power. Although some of these papers discuss feminism and action research, their focus on social change and critical theory place them as PAR research within action research. Gatenby and Humphries 2000 focuses on methods and how they are affected by a feminist focus, while Frisby, et al. 2009 focuses on the approach.

                                                                      • Brydon-Miller, M., P. Maguire, and A. McIntyre, eds. 2004. Traveling Companions: Feminism, Teaching, and Action Research. Westport, CT: Praeger.

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                                                                        A collection of ten articles on feminism and action research. The texts are organized by themes: Power and the construction of knowledge, issues of status and relationships between communities and the academy, and ethical dimensions and meanings of feminists and participatory action research.

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                                                                        • Frisby, W., P. Maguire, and C. Reid. 2009. The “f” word has everything to do with it: How feminist theories inform action research. Action Research 7:13–21.

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                                                                          The authors discuss the utility of applying feminist theories in an action research project. The application of feminist theories to AR highlights the need to question power dynamics and patterns (amount of talk time, group roles) that arise in collaborative research.

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                                                                          • Gatenby, B., and M. Humphries. 2000. Feminist participatory action research: Methodological and ethical issues. Women’s Studies International Forum 23.1: 89–105.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1016/S0277-5395(99)00095-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            The authors reflect on their experience with a longitudinal PAR research project aimed at developing the careers of women participating in the project. In their reflection the authors consider data collection methods, relationships with women involved in the project, and issues of power and diversity.

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                                                                            • Maguire, P. 1987. Doing participatory research: A feminist approach. Amherst: Center for International Education, School of Education, Univ. of Massachusetts.

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                                                                              Includes a good definition and history of participatory research. Explores and critiques male biases present in PAR, then re-examines PAR from a feminist perspective, providing a framework for feminist participatory research. Provides examples of feminist participatory research, walking the reader through various stages of these projects, including a reflection on these projects and feminist participatory research.

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                                                                              • Maguire, P. 1996. Considering more feminist participatory research: What’s congruency got to do with it? Qualitative Inquiry 2.1: 106–118.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/107780049600200115Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                This article argues that any form of participatory research should incorporate the feminist perspective in order to enrich action research. The author concludes by discussing what feminist action research would look like/must consider.

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                                                                                Practitioner Centered Action Research

                                                                                Practitioner-centered action research (PCAR) is a variant of action research that has been subsumed under PAR and really no longer has an identity. It is the third type of action research described in the PAR section. It focuses on empowering practitioners as researchers. This research is largely not psychological in its focus or usage. Therefore, even though it is acknowledged and contrasted with Lewinian action research, it is limited here to two articles, King and Lonnquist 1992, which reviews the literature on action research with a focus on PCAR, and Maruyama 1996, which discusses and links PCAR to action research.

                                                                                • King, J. A., and M. P. Lonnquist. 1992. A review of writing on action research (1944–present). Minneapolis: Center for Applied Research and Educational Improvement, Univ. of Minnesota.

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                                                                                  In this article the authors discuss the shift in educational research from traditional action research to practitioner-centered research, comparing and contrasting the rationale and barriers associated with each of the two. Different conceptualizations of action research and the corresponding cycles of research activities associated with each approach are provided.

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                                                                                  • Maruyama, G. 1996. Application and transformation of action research in educational research and practice. Systems Practice 9.1: 85–101.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1007/BF02173420Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    This article discusses the history of action research, as well as different approaches to action research, specifically Lewinian approaches (diagnostic, participant, empirical, and experimental; as discussed by Chein, et al. 1948, cited under General Overviews) and practitioner-centered action research. Examples of action research in educational research are provided.

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                                                                                    Community-Based Participatory Research

                                                                                    Community-based participatory research (CBPR) has largely been found in health sciences research, particularly in schools of public health. Much like other areas of action research, researchers and community members work collaboratively to address questions raised by the community. CBPR is explicit in the importance of engaging all the stakeholders throughout the process, and in disseminating the research to all the stakeholders. One area where there is variability across studies is whether or not the actual participants in the research are represented on the research team. Allen, et al. 2013 provides an example where they are directly represented, Brown, et al. 2005 where they are represented by people from advocacy organizations, but in still other instances they are not represented (e.g., studies working with youth as participants). Most applications of CBPR in psychology are studies done in health psychology, for health journals are familiar with CBPR methods. Among the various ways in which CBPR has been used in a variety of types of research see, for example, Brown, et al. 2005, which used this approach to design a large scale survey; Allen, et al. 2013 to implement a parent skills intervention with a non-randomized experimental design; and Shetgiri, et al. 2009 to interview children and their parents in a qualitative study.

                                                                                    • Allen, M. L., G. A. Hurtado, K. J. Yon, et al. 2013. Feasibility of a parenting program to prevent substance use among Latino youth: A community-based participatory research study. American Journal of Health Promotion 27.4: 240–244.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.4278/ajhp.110204-ARB-52Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      Study of parents of Latino youth. Started with core planning group, and added parent advisory group. Assesses effectiveness of an intervention to improve parenting practices, using a single group pre-post design.

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                                                                                      • Brown, E. R., S. Holtby, E. Zahnd, and G. B. Abbott. 2005. Community-based participatory research in the California health interview survey. Preventing Chronic Disease 2.4 (October): 1–8.

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                                                                                        Describes how CBPR has been used to develop the California Health Interview Survey, a state-wide survey that generates state and local population-based data on health insurance coverage, access to health care, chronic disease prevalence and management, health behaviors and disease prevention, and other health issues in California. Describes partners and approach used to do CBPR. Very different in scale from many CBPR studies, which often are small in scale.

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                                                                                        • Shetgiri, R., S. H. Kataoka, G. W. Ryan, L. Miller Askew, P. D. Chung, and M. A. Schuster. 2009. Risk and resilience in Latinos: A community-based participatory research study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 37.6S1: S217–S224.

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                                                                                          This study interviews youth, their parents, and representatives from community-based organizations to see how children and their families viewed responsibility for poor educational and health outcomes. All data were collected from people living or working in a large section 8 (federally subsidized) housing project. With its qualitative approach, this article is much like PAR articles described earlier.

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                                                                                          Action Science

                                                                                          The term action science comes from the work of Chris Argyris, and is clearly articulated in Argyris, et al. 1985. The term action science evokes the links of action research to traditional scientific discovery, although set in natural settings and done in support of social improvement. This work is a spinoff of action research that is very close to Lewin’s position, and could perhaps be seen as part of what is termed here as “traditional” action research. It has been most visible in industrial/organizational psychology; many of the articles focus on organizational management and information systems. Argyris, et al. 1985 claims that Lewin was an action scientist, which, given their definition, is the case. Argyris and Schön 1989 largely advocates for traditional action research perspectives in their critique of some PAR research.

                                                                                          • Argyris, C., R. Putnam, and D. McLain Smith. 1985. Action science: Concepts, methods, and skills for research and intervention. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

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                                                                                            This in-depth look at action science takes great care in defining and outlining the methodological features and rules governing this approach to research. Throughout the text action science is compared to traditional research, comparing the epistemological, methodological, and practical differences between these approaches to research.

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                                                                                            • Argyris, Chris, and Donald A. Schön. 1989. Participatory action research and action science compared: A commentary. American Behavioral Scientist 32.5: 612–623.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/0002764289032005008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              This article develops a comparison of action science and PAR through the critique of a PAR project, and the reevaluation of the project’s results through the lens of action research. While the authors take care to note the many similarities between PAR and action science, they note that these differences manifest in greater academic rigor and increased validity when engaging in research from an action science perspective.

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                                                                                              The six studies that appear in this section were selected because they provide good examples of empirical action research articles. McHugh and Kowalski 2011 and Reid 2002 illustrate feminist PAR research, Fine, et al. 2003 is PAR but could also be viewed as feminist PAR, Letiecq and Schmalzbauer 2012 provides an illustration of community-based participatory research, and both Buettgen, et al. 2012 and Langhout and Thomas 2010 provide illustrations of PAR research. It is no coincidence that a number of these studies include a large number of authors, for they recognize the contributions of the various partners to the research process.

                                                                                              • Buettgen, A., J. Richardson, K. Beckham, K. Richardson, M. Ward, and M. Riemer. 2012. We did it together: A participatory action research study on poverty and disability. Disability and Society 27.5: 603–616.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1080/09687599.2012.669106Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Used PAR to aid in the development of a school-based social skills program for children with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders (HFASD). Researchers worked with teachers and parents of children with HFASD to collect quantitative and qualitative data which assessed the need for a social skills intervention, and possible barriers to implementation. This approach to intervention development promotes both participant buy-in and ensures that the intervention can be implemented within the confines of the school setting.

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                                                                                                • Fine, M., Torre, M., Boudin, K., et al. 2003. Participatory action research: From within and beyond prison bars. In Qualitative research in psychology: Expanding perspectives in methodology and design. Edited by P. M. Camic, J. E. Rhodes, and L. Yardley, 95–119. Washington, DC: American Psychology Association.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1037/10595-000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  An excellent example of PAR research. The article contains a section where the authors reflect on various methodological, ethical, and other challenges faced while conducting their research. One of many studies coming from their Public Science Project.

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                                                                                                  • Langhout, R. D., and E. Thomas. 2010. Imagining participatory action research in collaboration with children: An introduction. American Journal of Community Psychology 46:60–66.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1007/s10464-010-9321-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Lead article of a special issue on PAR with children middle school or younger. Situates the reader well, outlining reasons PAR was not typically done with children in the field of community psychology. Articles in the special issue are discussed in terms of guiding paradigms, theoretical traditions, and in their discussions of challenges in conducting PAR with children. This is a good reference for those looking for further resources for PAR with children.

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                                                                                                    • Letiecq, B., and L. Schmalzbauer. 2012. Community-based participatory research with Mexican migrants in a new rural destination: A good fit? Action Research 10.3: 244–259.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/1476750312443571Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      This article begins with a brief outline of community-based participatory research, highlighting the utility of such an approach as a mechanism for positive social change. By presenting the four main steps in their research (establishing a community advisory board, establishing partnerships, collaborating with community partners, and implementing action) the authors provide a good analysis of the challenges and means of overcoming them when doing CBPR.

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                                                                                                      • McHugh, T., and K. Kowalski. 2011. “A new view of body image”: A school-based participatory action research project with young Aboriginal women. Action Research 9.3: 220–241.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/1476750310388052Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        Good example incorporating feminist theory into participatory action research (FPAR). Helps Aboriginal women develop strategies to manage body image concerns. First phase focuses on relationship building, becoming familiarized with the community, making connections and giving back to the community. Second focuses on action, which ultimately had impacts at the individual, local, provincial, and national levels.

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                                                                                                        • Reid, C. 2002. Seduction and enlightenment in feminist action research. Resources for Feminist Research 28.1–2: 169–180.

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                                                                                                          This article presents the authors’ findings of a three-year FPAR project. The authors discuss the benefits and challenges of such an approach to research as well as complicated nature of defining action.

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                                                                                                          Issues in Conducting Action Research

                                                                                                          This section of the article moves away from the different approaches and considers an array of other issues that have become part of the narratives on action research. The first issue, a prominent one, discusses who has Power and Control in the research partnerships, and how the power is used. The second focuses on the process of reflecting on the partnership (Reflexivity). The remainder of this section covers in order a number of other important issues: Relationship with Practitioners, academic integrity in action research (Academic Rigor), Ethical Research, Challenges Gaining Approval from an IRB, and Training and Professional Development for all action researchers.

                                                                                                          Power and Control

                                                                                                          This issue can be a delicate one, for university researchers can be oblivious to the institutional power that they represent and their propensity to “run things.” As should be clear from preceding sections, action research explicitly examines the partnerships and how they are working. Articles in this section explicitly examine issues of power throughout the action research process. Chenoweth and Kilstoff 2002, for example, reflects on problems arising from power dynamics in an AR project setting that are useful to consider when organizing a research team as well as when predicting what the end result of the project may be. Stoudt 2009 examines language in particular, while Hynes, et al. 2012 and Reason 2006 focus on issues of power that need to be considered when conducting action research.

                                                                                                          • Chenoweth, L., and K. Kilstoff. 2002. Organizational and structural reform in aged care organizations: Empowerment towards a change process. Journal of Nursing Management 10:235–244.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1046/j.1365-2834.2002.00301.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            The authors reflect on an AR project aimed at examining issues facing elderly residents in long-term care facilities. Although the AR project was successful, issues of power from senior management at times disrupted participation. Management restricted the time staff could spend at the AR meetings, what they could say at these meetings, and what constituted an actionable proposal for change.

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                                                                                                            • Hynes, G., D. Coghlan, and M. McCarron. 2012. Participation as a multi-voiced process: Action research in the acute hospital environment. Action Research 10.3: 293–312.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/1476750312451278Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              This article discusses power issues that must be considered when conducting action research. Of particular relevance for action researchers in psychology is their reflection on heteroglossia (hierarchy of levels of communication within the same language) and the need to recognize the power inherent in language and communication.

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                                                                                                              • Reason, P. 2006. Choice and quality in action research practice. Journal of Management Inquiry 15.2: 187–203.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/1056492606288074Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                While this article covers many topics relevant to action research, the author’s section “Democracy and Participation” reflects on several key issues surrounding power and control.

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                                                                                                                • Stoudt, B. 2009. The role of language and discourse in the investigation of privilege: Using participatory action research to discuss theory, develop methodology, and interrupt power. Urban Review 41:7–28.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1007/s11256-008-0093-ySave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  The author discusses the use of language in addressing issues of power and institutional traditions (i.e., privilege) in a PAR research project in a private boys’ school. The article also examines ways in which the political climate surrounding the research influences the scope of research and creates difficulties in engaging in PAR.

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                                                                                                                  In action research, the final step in action cycles involves reflecting on the research. Unlike laboratory research, reflexivity includes reflecting on the entire process, including relationships among the partners, how power dynamics have operated, and so forth, allowing the emergent process of action research to continue. Said differently, the process is not just about how the study went, what to do with the findings, or what the next study will be, but also on the relationships among the different stakeholders and how those can be improved or at least sustained effectively. Snoeren, et al. 2011 discusses how partnership building includes reflexivity and mindfulness. Reason and Torbert 2001 argues for examining relationships and research practices at individual, group, and community levels. Chiu 2006 focuses on the importance of reflective practice, while the remaining articles all discuss challenges that can emerge if insufficient attention is given throughout the research process to reflecting on the complete research process, and in particular (anticipating the next set of studies!) to building and sustaining relationships with and listening to community partners. Jacobs 2010 in particular focuses on how conflicts can emerge during the research process due to time deadlines and pressures, while Estacio 2012 reminds researchers that in action research they do not own the research, and cannot expect to control it. Finally, L’Etang and Theron 2011 examine how reflexivity works in practice. Presenting an example of a PAR research project, Chataway 1997 highlights the importance of reflection, showing that sometimes the underlying model of the investigation must be reimagined in order to enable participation.

                                                                                                                  • Busza, J. (2004). Participatory research in constrained settings. Action Research, 2.2: 191–208.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/1476750304043730Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    Examines a research project rife with many challenges that impeded the participatory process: powerlessness of participants, rapid changes in the population and political leaders, and participation restrictions. Provides a good example of the need for reflexivity and adaptation in order to address the needs of both the funders and, more importantly, the community.

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                                                                                                                    • Chataway, C. J. 1997. An examination of the constraints on mutual inquiry in a participatory action research project. Journal of Social Issues 53:747–765.

                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1997.tb02459.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      In this article Chataway presents an example PAR project which illuminates the necessity of ongoing reflection throughout the PAR process. This reflection on a three-year PAR research project highlights the cyclical nature of this type of research, and the challenges of conducting research from the perspective of an outsider in the community.

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                                                                                                                      • Chiu, L. F. 2006. Critical reflection: More than nuts and bolts. Action Research 4.2: 183–203.

                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/1476750306063991Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        The author discusses the importance of incorporating reflection from first-, second-, and third-person perspectives. The author proposes a framework for reflective practice which entails experiential, presentational, critical, and practical reflection across the three perspectives.

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                                                                                                                        • Estacio, E. 2012. “Playing with fire and getting burned”: The case of the naïve action researcher. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology 22:439–451.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1002/casp.2106Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          The author reflects on the inter- and intra-personal conflicts that can arise when conducting community based research. This article concludes with advice for action researchers: be prepared to handle challenges that arise, remember as a researcher you are a facilitator rather than the owner of the project, and be aware of the historical and cultural context of the project and the setting.

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                                                                                                                          • Jacobs, G. 2010. Conflicting demands and the power of defensive routines in participatory action research. Action Research 8.4: 367–386.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/1476750310366041Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            The author reflects on a PAR project intended to empower aging participants. As timeline pressures arose, conflicts between academic and intervention targets became apparent, and participation from the community was strictly reduced. Upon reflection, the author recognized that from the beginning the researchers viewed the goals of participation very differently, which impacted relationships with and engagement of community participants.

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                                                                                                                            • L’Etang, S., and L. Theron. 2011. A critical reflection on the participatory action process involved in the development of a cognitive-behavioral-based counseling intervention programme for youth living with HIV/AIDS in a rural South African town. Action Research 10.1: 5–21.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/1476750311414740Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              The authors provide a critical reflection on a PAR project conducted with youth and community-based practitioners aimed at helping young people with HIV/AIDS. They discuss benefits arising from working collaboratively with knowledgeable people with connections to this issue, as well as difficulties in keeping researchers from taking on too great a lead role. This article demonstrates need to reflect as a group on project/intervention, as well as to reflect on the power dynamics in all PAR projects.

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                                                                                                                              • Reason, P., and W. R. Torbert. 2001. The action turn: Toward a transformational social science. Concepts and Transformation 6.1: 1–37.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1075/cat.6.1.02reaSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                The authors provide definitions and examples of first- (individual level), second- (group level), and third-person (wider community) research/practices. They argue that integration of the three levels of research is necessary in order to ensure transformational research, concluding that interweaving these three perspectives will increase the validity of AR.

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                                                                                                                                • Snoeren, M., T. Niessen, and T. Abma. 2011. Engagement enacted: Essentials of initiating an action research project. Action Research 10.2: 189–204.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/1476750311426620Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  The authors discuss the difficulties and importance of relationship building with local practitioners, specifically differing values, interests, and notions of power. The authors discuss the need to not only be reflective of situations but also to practice mindfulness.

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                                                                                                                                  Relationship with Practitioners

                                                                                                                                  These articles explicitly address challenges that come about when individuals from different cultures—be they institutional, ethnic/racial, national, gender-based, or whatever—come together to plan and implement a research study. Humphrey 2007 focuses on the status of the researchers in the community, Wickes and Reason 2009 on creating effective communication, and McKenna and Main 2013 on how to engage and trust “key informants.” Academics have their own ways of doing things, as do social service agencies, municipal governments, non-profits, and others. A researcher should not expect that everyone will see things in similar ways. In fact, a researcher should expect the opposite, namely, that each partner will bring knowledge and approaches from their work environment, and the different perspectives and cultures are not likely to align. Consistent with that perspective, Israel et al. 1998 provides a listing of principles to use and illustrations of challenges and how they might be addressed. Maiter, et al. 2008 argues for the importance of the principle of reciprocity underlying the relationships, while Cornwall and Jewkes 1995 discusses the importance of sharing control, and urge researchers to examine who has been included and who has been excluded in developing the research process.

                                                                                                                                  • Cornwall, A., and Jewkes, R. 1995. What is participatory research? Social Science and Medicine 41.12: 1667–1676.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/0277-9536(95)00127-SSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    The authors begin by discussing various forms of participatory research, concluding with issues surrounding participation. Although the article largely focuses outside of psychology, the authors bring up many important issues relevant to psychologists, such as sharing control of the research, relationships/trust, and questions regarding who is participating and who is excluded.

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                                                                                                                                    • Humphrey, C. 2007. Insider-outsider. Action Research 51: 11–26.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/1476750307072873Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Discusses the difficulties of being both an insider and an outsider while engaging in insider action research. The author discusses obstacles in developing and maintaining relationships, conducting collaborative research, and disseminating research findings.

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                                                                                                                                      • Israel, B. A., A. J. Schulz, E. A. Parker, and A. B. Becker. 1998. Review of community-based research: Assessing partnership approaches to improve public health. Annual Review of Public Health 19: 173–202.

                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1146/annurev.publhealth.19.1.173Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        The authors use the umbrella term “community-based research” to refer to a variety of approaches to participatory research. They provide a useful outline of key principles in community-based research, a rationale for using it, and an in-depth examination of the challenges and facilitating factors to be considered when engaging in AR. Developing good relationships with the community/practitioners is key.

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                                                                                                                                        • Maiter, S., L. Simich, N. Jacobson, and J. Wise. 2008. Reciprocity: An ethic for community based participatory action research. Action Research 6.3: 305–326.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/1476750307083720Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          The authors suggest that reciprocity (which they view as the process of ensuring equality across all involved in the project) is useful in engaging in an ethical AR project. The article concludes with a list of five guidelines for researchers when engaging in a AR project.

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                                                                                                                                          • McKenna, S., and D. Main. 2013. The role and influence of key informants in community-engaged research: A critical perspective. Action Research 11.2: 1–12.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/1476750312473342Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Key informants, crucial in outsider action research, may despite their expertise have differing ideas and priorities than the community being studied. This article provides suggestions for working with key informants: defining the community and its members in order to representatively sample community members for participation, evaluating power/social position of key informants to better understand their point of view/biases, and continually striving to balance voices of those being studied.

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                                                                                                                                            • Wicks, P., and P. Reason. 2009. Initiating action research: Challenges and paradoxes of opening communicative space. Action Research 7.3: 243–262.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/1476750309336715Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              The authors discuss three phases and associated issues (emotional, task, and organizational) involved in creating effective communication: inclusion, control, and intimacy. They end by discussing paradoxes that arise in dealing with communicative space, and provide further reading for each paradox.

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                                                                                                                                              Academic Rigor

                                                                                                                                              Because action research can be “messy,” with control shared with partners whose primary interests are not research, ensuring the academic rigor of the research is an important part of an action research study. In this literature, the term academic integrity is often used interchangeably with academic rigor. These studies directly address issues of academic rigor. Checkland and Holwell 1998 suggests that for engaged research, in addition to typical conditions for determining rigor, researchers also need to consider the thought processes/epistemologies underlying the research so others will understand the research. Levin 2012 suggests five ways factors that help ensure rigor, and Chandler and Torbert 2003 suggests that dimensions of time, voice, and person (described within their summary) should be considered in assessing action research. Interestingly, these issues may not be as widespread as some might believe, for Stoecker 2009 suggests that there is much more lip service to action and engagement/participation than actually occurs, and that “action” should be less freely used in describing research (the same probably would hold true for “engagement”). This area is one where different perspectives on action research will agree about the importance of the idea, but differ on how it is accomplished.

                                                                                                                                              • Chandler, D., and B. Torbert. 2003. Transforming inquiry and action: Interweaving 27 flavors of action research. Action Research 1.2: 133–152.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/14767503030012002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                The authors’ “27 flavors of action research” refers to the 3 x 3 x 3 interaction of time, voice, and practice across each component’s multiple levels (time (past/present/future) x voice (subjective/multiple/generalized) x practice (1st-/2nd-/3rd-person)) within any action research project. Given opportunities to explore these interactions, action researchers have greater opportunities for describing social phenomena than traditional researchers with their limited research scope.

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                                                                                                                                                • Checkland, P., and S. Holwell. 1998. Action research: Its nature and validity. Systemic Practice and Action Research 11.1: 9–21.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1023/A:1022908820784Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  The authors argue that when discussing the validity of an AR project it is important to consider the project’s “recoverability,” which is similar to replicability in traditional research. In AR, however, it also refers explicitly to stating the epistemologies/thought processes underlying the AR project so that outsiders can interpret the research accordingly. They suggest that this is best accomplished by explicitly detailing the researchers’ methods and framework so that the conclusions are clearly linked to the research process.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Levin, M. 2012. Academic integrity in action research. Action Research 10.20: 133–149.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/1476750312445034Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Levin discusses the importance of academic integrity when conducting action research. He suggests five factors which will help solidify the integrity of action research: research partnering, outlining potential researcher biases, standardizing methods, developing and exploring alternative explanations, and striving for conclusions that are both reliable and valid.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Stoecker, R. 2009. Are we talking the walk of community-based research? Action Research 7.4: 385–404.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/1476750309340944Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      This article takes an important look at the amount of participation and action in CBR proposals finding that both concepts were largely ignored. These findings are particularly important because these two concepts are crucial in AR. The author provides recommendations that may help researchers engage in effective community-based research.

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                                                                                                                                                      Ethical Research

                                                                                                                                                      A concern particularly salient for action researchers is the range of issues about the ethics of the research being conducted. Given that many action researchers work closely with communities, thought must be given to the relationships, the ramifications of the actions taken, what happens when the researcher leaves the community, and so on. Many books have been written on this topic, particularly from the lens of education-based action research. Zeni 2001 and Campbell and Groundwater-Smith 2007 are good reflections on the topic of ethical practitioner–based research. Both books cover a range of topics, organized logically, that address issues important for all action researchers. Concerns regarding participation consent are particularly salient for the fields of education and health, particularly medicine. When action researchers with strong ties to the organization/community (“insider” action researchers) engage in research in order to improve the quality of life/education for those most affected, issues such as informed consent, anonymity, power are almost certain to arise. Boser 2006; Kuriloff, et al. 2011; Löfman, et al. 2004; and Minkler, et al. 2002 thoughtfully explore these issues, providing suggestions for ways to address the ethical dilemmas that may arise for insider action researchers. Given that the ultimate goal of action research is social action, it is imperative that researchers consider the implications of their actions (Hilsen 2006).

                                                                                                                                                      • Boser, S. 2006. Ethics and power in community-campus partnerships for research. Action Research 4.1: 9–21.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/1476750306060538Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Due to the collaborative nature of action research, ethical assurances such as confidentiality and advanced-informed consent are limited. The author suggests a possible framework for addressing ethics in action research.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Campbell, A., and S. Groundwater-Smith, eds. 2007. An ethical approach to practitioner research: Dealing with issues and dilemmas in action research. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                          A collection of thirteen articles covering a range of ethical issues that confront action researchers. Many of the articles are focused on challenges in the education sphere; the issues covered in this text can be extended to many domains in which AR can be applied.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Hilsen, A. 2006. And they shall be known by their deeds: Ethics and politics in action research. Action Research 4.1: 23–36.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/1476750306060539Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            This article discusses the ethical demand of action researchers to consider their actions on the community participating in the study, as well as the unavoidable power dynamics in all AR.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Kuriloff, P., S. Andrus, and S. Ravitch. 2011. Messy ethics: Conducting moral participatory action research in the crucible of university-school relations. Mind, Brain and Education 5.2: 49–62.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-228X.2011.01110.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Drawing from a vast experience with PAR in schools, the authors discuss the ethical challenges of conducting collaborative research in schools. Issues such as publishing data and dealing with power dynamics in research teams are discussed in context of working in schools. Provides a framework for managing/avoiding ethical issues that may arise (see article’s appendix).

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                                                                                                                                                              • Löfman, P., M. Pelkonen, and A. Pietilä. 2004. Ethical issues in participatory action research. Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences 18:333–340.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/j.1471-6712.2004.00277.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                This article discusses ethical issues that arise when conducting AR in the health care system. The issues covered are informed consent, confidentiality and anonymity, protection from harm, the role of the researcher, power dynamics and ownership of the research.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Minkler, M., P. Fadem, M. Perry, K. Blum, L. Moore, and J. Rogers. 2002. Ethical dilemmas in participatory action research: A case study from the disability community. Health Education and Behavior 29.1: 14–29.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/109019810202900104Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Discusses use of PAR to address a controversial issue (physician assisted suicide legislation) within a community of people with physical disabilities. Provides a thorough discussion of ethical issues that arose: (a) researching a controversial issue in a community with divided opinions, (b) the inclusion/exclusion of both team members and study participants, (c) issues related to being an insider or outsider in this approach, and (d) dissemination of potentially controversial findings.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Zeni, J., ed. 2001. Ethical issues in practitioner research. New York: Teachers College.

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                                                                                                                                                                    This text is a collection of twelve articles addressing issues of ethics in action research. Aimed primarily at insider researchers, particularly those involved in education, the text is organized in three sections: school-based researchers, university-based researchers, and collaborative school-university research.

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                                                                                                                                                                    Challenges Gaining Approval from an IRB

                                                                                                                                                                    A persistent challenge for action researchers is producing the kinds of materials that institutional review boards (IRBs) want to see before they approve a research study. Typically, IRBs want copies of all instruments, a description of the procedures and of the participant population, and human subject consent forms. As should be clear, action research typically does not develop the procedures and instruments in advance, but during the process of partnership building. And even after “formal” data collection begins, the iterative process might result in revisions of the instruments or procedures as the first few sessions of participants occur. To the extent that partners are engaged throughout the process, the IRB submission may come much later in that process than it would for more traditional research where the researcher designs the study before engaging partners. Khanlou and Peter 2005 discusses nuances of the process, highlighting concerns that IRBs might have and Brydon-Miller and Greenwood 2006 suggests both ways to deal with IRBs as well as ways they would like to see IRBs changed in their procedures. Guta, et al. 2012 notes receptiveness of IRBs to accommodate participatory and action research approaches, while Flicker, et al. 2007 provides suggestions about how to create questions that address community concerns while also satisfying IRB requirements. Ashcraft and Krause 2007 surveyed researchers about their experiences with IRBs, and their recommendations are well suited for researchers doing action research: approve blanket protocols for series of studies, and streamline the approval process for modifications of approved studies.

                                                                                                                                                                    • Ashcraft, M. H., and J. A. Krause. 2007. Social and behavioral researchers’ experiences with their IRBs. Ethics and Behavior 17.1: 1–17.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1080/10508420701309614Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      This paper addresses IRB issues generally, not just focused on action research, but their recommendations are drawn from action research experiences and appropriate for action research. They recommend approving blanket protocols for a set of studies, and streamlining approval of modifications of studies.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Brydon-Miller, M., and D. Greenwood. 2006. A re-examination of the relationship between action research and human subjects review processes. Action Research 4.1: 117–128.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/1476750306060582Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        This article discusses the aims of institutional review boards in terms of action research, highlighting the areas of possible concerns in the IRB process. The authors suggest several ways the IRB process can be improved to integrate the participant driven nature of action research.

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                                                                                                                                                                        • Flicker, S., R. Travers, A. Guta, S. McDonald, and A. Meagher. 2007. Ethical dilemmas in community-based participatory research: Recommendations for institutional review boards. Journal of Urban Health 84.4: 478–493.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1007/s11524-007-9165-7Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          The authors have used popular CBPR principles to develop questions which address community concerns and may be asked in addition to standard protocol questions.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Guta, A., S. Nixon, J. Gahgan, and S. Fielden. 2012. “Walking along beside the researcher”: How Canadian REBs/IRBs are responding to the needs of community-based participatory research. Journal of Empirical Research on Human Research Ethics 7.1: 17–27.

                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1525/jer.2012.7.1.17Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                            The authors present findings from interviews with members of various Canadian Research Ethics Boards(REB)/IRBs. Their study found, contrary to the other articles discussed here, those involved with REB/IRB boards to be willing to discuss ethical issues concerning IRB proposals. Concludes with a series of recommendations for REB/IRB boards when dealing with AR projects.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Khanlou, N., and E. Peter. 2005. Participatory action research: Considerations for ethical review. Social Science and Medicine 60:2333–2334.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2004.10.004Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              Focuses on health sciences. Using an established framework for evaluating research ethics, the authors discuss each of the facets in terms of PAR, noting concerns relevant for PAR researchers. The authors conclude with five recommendations for ethics review boards when examining PAR proposals. Also begins with a good description of PAR as integration of action research and participatory research, outlining a brief history of each research approach and comparison of them.

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                                                                                                                                                                              Training and Professional Development

                                                                                                                                                                              With the renewed interest in action research comes a need to train future researchers. This training is challenging, for it would be very difficult if not impossible to have students engage in an AR project from beginning to end in a single academic semester. The process of relationship building and reflection are, in many instances, just too time consuming to complete quickly. Many of these issues are discussed in the special issue of Action Research summarized by Levin and Martin 2007, which stresses the importance of direct engagement in the AR process. Couch 2004 and Jacobs and Murray 2004 reflect on the authors’ experiences in teaching AR, discussing challenges that may be useful in informing other classes in this field. An important issue often neglected in reflections on teaching AR is the power dynamics of the teacher-student relationship. McIntyre and Lykes 1998 reflects on the authors’ experiences as both student and professor, stressing the importance of ongoing reflection and communication. Herr and Anderson 2005 and McNiff and Whitehead 2009 are very useful for supporting students in both writing and engaging in action research. Both are accessible and clearly organized, and are helpful tools for guiding researchers through the process of writing an action research report. Hildrum and Strand 2007 suggests that writing a developmental story upon completion of the project may be useful for critical reflection, and helpful in improving the AR process in future investigations. Bradbury-Huang 2010 is important for action researchers, for it clearly outlines the seven key criteria that the journal Action Research looks for when evaluating AR projects. By providing a series of example projects and their evaluations, their article provides action researchers with a guide for quality in the AR process.

                                                                                                                                                                              • Bradbury-Huang, H. 2010. What is good action research? Why the resurgent interest? Action Research 8.1: 93–109.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/1476750310362435Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                The author outlines seven criteria (or choice points for quality) that the journal Action Research looks for in an AR project. Three examples are provided and evaluated against these criteria.

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                                                                                                                                                                                • Couch, S. 2004. A tale of three discourses: Doing action research in a research methods class. Social Problems 51.1: 146–153.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1525/sp.2004.51.1.146Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  The author reflects on the challenges that arose when engaging an action research class in an authentic action research project. The article focuses on complexities that arise when the project moves from the classroom to the social/political realm, where the power dynamics change dramatically.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Herr, K., and G. Anderson. 2005. The action research dissertation: A guide for students and faculty. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    This book provides a useful framework for writing an AR dissertation (or article), covering issues such as epistemology, methodology, ethics, validity, positionality, narration, IRB process and planning. The authors discuss three examples of AR dissertations and include an appendix with useful resources for students doing AR dissertations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Hildrum, J., and G. Strand. 2007. Overcoming challenges in writing about action research––The promise of the development story. Systems Practice and Action Research 20:77–89.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/s11213-006-9051-3Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      The authors suggest that through writing a development story upon completion of an AR project, researchers can better reflect on and learn from the process. Presents an example AR project and how the development story was created and analyzed to help the authors reflect on the roles of the researchers in the project, highlighting areas of improvement for future projects.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Jacobs, G., and M. Murray. 2004. Developing critical understanding by teaching action research to undergraduate psychology students. Educational Action Research 18.3: 319–335.

                                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1080/09650792.2010.499789Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                        The authors reflect on and evaluate an action research course which used the teaching approach of action learning. Students reported increased critical thinking, but the authors observed a rather limited critical understanding of the topic. The authors propose that developing a critical understanding is key, and reflect on how this may be made possible.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Levin, M., and A. W. Martin. 2007. The praxis of educating action researchers: The possibilities and obstacles in higher education. Action Research 5.3: 219–229.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/1476750307081014Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          The lead article in a special issue on educating action researchers. The authors propose that keys to educating future action researchers are (a) engaging students in processes that ensure that connections are made to existing theory, and (b) providing opportunities for supported, relevant field work. The authors provide a brief summary of the other seven articles in this special issue.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • McIntyre, A., and B. Lykes. 1998. Who’s the boss? Confronting whiteness and power differences within a feminist mentoring relationship in participatory action research. Feminism and Psychology 8.4: 427–444.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/0959353598084003Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            The authors discuss challenges in a mentorship relationship while completing a PAR dissertation. They select three examples to highlight the issues from the perspective of both the student and advisor. A common theme throughout the article is the need for open, reflective communication to address tensions arising from power dynamics.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • McNiff, J., and J. Whitehead. 2009. Doing and writing action research. London: SAGE.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              A useful resource for those new to conducting and writing up action research projects, especially at the student level. The book’s primary audience is teacher action researchers and provides many examples of relevant works. The use of reflective questions to guide the design and writing process may be helpful to many new researchers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              A final challenge for action researchers is completing their commitment to their partners by disseminating their findings to their communities and constituents. Part of what makes this difficult is that the outlets for dissemination are often local, and will vary from community to community, so the solution cannot just be “publish your findings in Journal of XXX.” Chen, et al. 2010 and Sommer 2009 discuss the multiple types of dissemination, conceptual, practical, and translational (methodological). Cahill and Torre 2007 highlight the importance of creating a final product that will target the desired audience.

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Cahill, C., and M. E. Torre. 2007. Beyond the journal article: Representations, audience, and the presentation of participatory research. In Participatory action research approaches and methods: Connecting people, participation and place. Edited by Sara Kindon, Rachel Pain, and Mike Kesby, 196–205. New York: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                This article presents two examples of PAR projects covering many topics from issues of communication to dealing with stereotypes. Cahill and Torre discuss different means of disseminating research findings so that it will reach a wide audience, which may mean creating different products for different audiences.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                • Chen, P., N. Diaz, G. Lucas, and M. Rosenthal. 2010. Dissemination of results in community-based participatory research. American Journal of Preventative Medicine 39.4: 372–378.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.amepre.2010.05.021Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                  This article examines 101 CBPR studies to investigate the frequency, quality and challenges surrounding dissemination of project results to the community/participants. Almost all studies reported disseminating research findings to the public in some manner. Major issues surrounding timing and funding limited widespread dissemination. Content analysis results highlight important ways that well planned dissemination practices may help increase funding sources as well as promote sustainability.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Sommer, R. 2009. Dissemination in action research. Action Research 7.2: 227–236.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1177/1476750308097028Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                    The author proposes that, due to the nature of AR, researchers have multiple obligations for publication: advancing knowledge surrounding the problem, improving the situation within a community, and improving the practice of AR. The weighting of these goals in the writing dictates the audience and venue for dissemination, which the author highlights may be a point of concern given the researcher’s position within a university.

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