Action Researcher: Not Trying to Overcome an Unruly World

As we defined it earlier, action research is a cogenerative process through which professional researchers and interested members of a local organization, com­munity, or a specially created organization collaborate to research, understand, and resolve problems of mutual interest. AR is a social process in which pro­fessional knowledge, local knowledge, process skills, research skills, and demo­cratic values are the basis for cogenerated knowledge and social change.

Conventional researchers attempt to make a sharp separation between a research design that they determine in advance of initiating the research and endeavor to control throughout the research (carefully noting any deviations from the original plan) and the analysis of results of the research, which are developed and reported largely after the research actions are completed. Conventional researchers seldom take on the responsibility of producing socially applicable research results or being involved in the application of their research. Some do claim that their research is useful because all improvements in social knowledge are useful or because the topics they study are socially important.

These behaviors lead us to believe that for conventional researchers, the world appears to be an unruly place that attempts to fool them into believing what is not true. Their response to this unruly world is to do all they can to gain control of its unruliness through reliance on impersonal techniques of data generation and manipulation and through self-discipline. Research techniques are important insofar as they impart control, distance, and objectivity to the researcher so that any other similarly motivated researcher can reproduce the same results using the same techniques.

Action researchers reject this view on a variety of grounds. Although many action researchers recognize how easy it is to believe whatever we prefer about the world, we do not accept that it is possible to separate the research process from its human dimensions or to separate the process from the results. AR seeks to bring the process and the results into the closest possible relationship, and builds research on fundamental respect for and trust in human capacities. AR also emphasizes democratic values and processes by co-creating knowledge applicable by the local stakeholders in their efforts to increase control over their own situations.

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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