Action Research

Jennifer Mullett and Sarah Fletcher

in Public Health

ISBN: 9780199756797
Published online February 2011 | | DOI:
Action Research


Action research is research for societal change that progresses through cyclical stages of planning, acting, reflecting, and evaluating. It is used in the field of public health to alleviate adverse conditions in communities by addressing the determinants of health, community-wide interventions, and health promotion. A renewed interest in action research has led to a number of articles and books focused on the articulation of principles for conducting this research. Indeed, action research is less a methodology and more a set of guidelines for the roles of the researcher and collaborators, interweaving theory and action and the function of the research knowledge. There are many subtle variations and iterations of action research, but a gross distinction could be made between action research that is conducted by a researcher implementing an intervention at a community level for the dual purposes of change and knowledge outcomes versus community based participatory action research where those affected by the change and other important stakeholders participate in all stages of the research from design, implementation, and data gathering to analysis. Participatory action research approaches often have the additional goal of promoting critical consciousness where through cyclical stages of dialogue participants attain a greater understanding of their situation, which in turn may result in political or major social change. These approaches are more common in public health initiatives in underdeveloped countries but have been adapted for interventions with marginalized populations in developed countries. Because of the emphasis on research as an instrument of change there are several versions of how-to books and articles, some referred to as handbooks, that articulate the nonpositivist philosophy and offer a detailed description of the research process with examples. Included here are seminal articles in the general area of action research that articulate these principles followed by those specific to health promotion and public health initiatives. Online resources such as those edited by Ian Hughes and Bob Dick are included as they provide easy access to basic definitions and discussions of theory, but other fields outside of public health that rely heavily on action research such as education are not covered.

Article.  6666 words. 

Subjects: Public Health and Epidemiology

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