Action Research Defined

Action research is social research carried out by a team that encompasses a professional action researcher and the members of an organization, commu- nity, or network (“stakeholders”) who are seeking to improve the participants’ situation. AR promotes broad participation in the research process and sup-ports action leading to a more just, sustainable, or satisfying situation for the stakeholders.

Together, the professional researcher and the stakeholders define the prob-lems to be examined, cogenerate relevant knowledge about them, learn and execute social research techniques, take actions, 1 and interpret the results of actions based on what they have learned. AR rests on the belief and experience that all people—professional action researchers included—accumulate, orga­nize, and use complex knowledge continuously in everyday life. This belief is visible in any AR project because the first step professional action researchers and members of a community, organization, or network take is to define a problem that they seek to resolve. They begin by pooling their knowledge. AR democratizes the relationship between the professional researcher and the local interested parties.

Because it is a research practice with a social change agenda, AR involves a critique of conventional academic practices and organizations that assert either the necessity or desirability of studying social problems without trying to resolve them. Although AR views academic and professional knowledge sys­tems that do not engage practice direction as wrongheaded, action researchers neither reject formal research methods nor ignore the epistemological issues that necessarily undergird the development of valid social knowledge. To the contrary, action researchers, precisely because the results will affect the lives of the stakeholders, have a profound interest in the validity of the generated knowledge. These issues are dealt with in greater detail throughout Part 2 of this book, particularly in Chapters 4, “An Epistemological Foundation for Action Research,” and Chapter 5, “Scientific Method and Action Research.”

Source: Greenwood Davydd J., Levin Morten (2006), Introduction to Action Research: Social Research for Social Change, SAGE Publications, Inc; 2nd edition.

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