Lynn UniversityLynn Library
Skip to Main Content

Research Methods in the Social Sciences

Action Research Design*

Definition and Purpose

The essentials of action research design follow a characteristic cycle whereby initially an exploratory stance is adopted, where an understanding of a problem is developed and plans are made for some form of interventionary strategy. Then the intervention is carried out (the action in Action Research) during which time, pertinent observations are collected in various forms. The new interventional strategies are carried out, and the cyclic process repeats, continuing until a sufficient understanding of (or implement able solution for) the problem is achieved. The protocol is iterative or cyclical in nature and is intended to foster deeper understanding of a given situation, starting with conceptualizing and particularizing the problem and moving through several interventions and evaluations.

What do these studies tell you?

  1. A collaborative and adaptive research design that lends itself to use in work or community situations.
  2. Design focuses on pragmatic and solution-driven research rather than testing theories.
  3. When practitioners use action research it has the potential to increase the amount they learn consciously from their experience. The action research cycle can also be regarded as a learning cycle.
  4. Action search studies often have direct and obvious relevance to practice.
  5. There are no hidden controls or preemption of direction by the researcher.

What these studies don't tell you?

  1. It is harder to do than conducting conventional studies because the researcher takes on responsibilities for encouraging change as well as for research.
  2. Action research is much harder to write up because you probably can’t use a standard format to report your findings effectively.
  3. Personal over-involvement of the researcher may bias research results.
  4. The cyclic nature of action research to achieve its twin outcomes of action (e.g. change) and research (e.g. understanding) is time-consuming and complex to conduct.


Sample Action Research Studies