What is Action Research? 

"Action Research" is about learning by doing. It focuses on the practical concerns of a community, organisation or group of people, and involves them in testing solutions to the problems they face and evaluating the results. In contrast with traditional research approaches, Action Research has strong links with implementation and an explicit agenda for change. Traditional research might involve observing action taking place and evaluating its impact from a distance; in Action Research, taking action is an integral part of the research and learning process

Action Research is often visualised as a cycle in which a team of researchers and stakeholders identify desired outcomes, pilot approaches, evaluate their impact, suggest improvements, pilot the improved approach, and so on. The cycle aims to achieve a spiralling up of both theory and practice, as theory informs practice and practice continually refines theory.

Action research cycle

Key dimensions of Action Research are Involvement (of community or organisation members) and Improvement (development of practical solutions to improve their situation). As suggested by the name, Action Research has twin aims: to study a system (research), while collaborating with members of the system to improve it (action).

Consequently, action research is an inherently participatory process towards making research democratic, useful and practical with outcomes that improve real-life situations. Taking part in the research and change process is a learning experience for all participants. Action Research takes a context-specific approach, recognising that effective solutions to problems need to be locally appropriate and tested in action. It includes reflective critique of its own processes to acknowledge and understand any biases, assumptions and concerns held by the participants.

Page last updated 3 Sep 2009