Action Research - An Overview of
1. What is Action Research?
Action Research (AR thereon) is a family of research methodologies which pursue action (for
change) and research (for understanding) at the same time. In most of its forms it does this by
cycles of action and critical reflection and in the later cycles, continuously refining methods, data
and interpretation in the light of the understanding developed in the earlier cycles (Dick, 1991). In
this type of research the researcher tries to bring about (or at least contribute to) a change in a
system in focus, while at the same time generating critical knowledge about it.
AR is not a research method per se, as many methods of data collection may be used in AR
projects. It is, rather, a way of doing research and acting to change situations at the same time.
It differs from other types of research in various ways. Perhaps the most important distinction is
its interventionist nature. Doing something about what you are researching is a fundamental
element in AR. As Ottosson states “The objective of action research is thus not just to describe,
understand or explain social reality. It also strives to improve the method of acquiring habits of
coping with reality. Action research is a process in which the researcher is not solving a problem
for the other/s but with the others in joint learning.” (Ottosson 2003)
AR research is built on an approach most of us, perhaps unconsciously, use in our daily lives to
solve problems we face and/or to improve any kind of social situation. That is, when we face a
problematic situation we first try to understand what has actually happened and what can be done
to solve the problem or
improve the situation.
The formulation of potential
solutions/improvements are either guided by our prior knowledge and experiences, or informed
by new information and knowledge we acquire, or a combination of both. Then we
formulate/plan one, or a series of, action(s).