Action Research

Action Research is a participatory process in which researchers work collaboratively with participants (organisations, families, communities) to plan, implement and evaluate evidence-informed actions that address issues they have identified. The first step in Action Research is identifying the issue or question that people are interested in. This can be done through, for example, consultation, needs assessment, looking at previous research and/or thinking about a question posed by a project funder.

The second step is research to find out what is already known about the issue or question. This research might include, for example, demographic and other statistical data about a community, interviews, hui (meetings), assessments, and/or surveys. The methods used provide a rich description of the issue under consideration. The findings from the research can also become baseline data. Any changes that occur as a result of the actions taken can then be evaluated against this baseline.

Based on the findings of the research actions are planned, undertaken and then evaluated to see whether or not the issue or question has been successfully addressed. Once this is done, further issues or questions will probably be identified and the cycle starts over.

Below are some references for Action Research papers (including Participatory Action Research and Community-Based Participatory Research), that you may find useful and websites that are worth visiting for more information. Many of the Action Research resources listed are about Action Research that involves Indigenous peoples.


About Action Research

Brydon-Miller, M., Greenwood, D. & Maguire, P. (2003). Why action research? Action Research, 1(1), 9-28.

Hughes, I., Goolagong, P., Khavarpour, F. & Russell, C. (1994). Koori Action Research in community health. Paper presented at the Second Health Our Spirit Worldwide Conference in Sydney, 14 November 1994.

Kahakalau, K. (2004). Indigenous heuristic action research: Bridging western and indigenous research methodologies. Hulīlī; Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well-Being, 1, 19-33.

McNiff, J. (2002). Action research for professional development, 3rd Edition. (Jean McNiff’s website.

Kerr, S., Penney, L., Moewaka Barnes, H. & McCreanor, T. (2010). Kaupapa Māori Action Research to improve heart disease services in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Ethnicty & Health, 1-17, iFirst article.

Whānau Ora Action Research

Cram, F. (2011). Whānau Ora & Action Research. A paper prepared for Te Puni Kōkiri, Wellington.

Participatory Action Research

Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a form of Action Research that makes participant involvement explicit by asking such questions as: Who is the participant? How will they participate? How much will they participate? Below are some resources related to this particular branch of Action Research.

Cahill, C. (2007). Repositioning ethical commitments: Participatory action research as a relational praxis of social change. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies, 6(3), 360-373.

Eruera, M. (2010). Ma Te Whānau Te Huarahi Motuhake: Whānau Participatory Action Research groups. MAI Review, 2010, 3.

Stewart, S.L. & Yellowknife, D. (2009). Participatory Action Research: Exploring Indigenous youth perspectives and experiences. Indigenous Policy Journal, XX, No.3 (Fall 2009).

Wadsworth, Y. (1998). What is participatory action research? Action Research International. Paper 2. Action Research International website.

Community-Based Participatory Research

Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) is very similar to Action Research. CBPR is mainly used to conduct research with communities that are underserved by health services and seeing the outcomes of this in the health disparities experienced by the people in these communities. Below are some resources relating to the use of CBPR, especially within Indigenous communities.

Burthnssitpanov, L., Christopher, S & Schumacher Sr Ann (2005). Lessons learned from community-based participatory research in Indian Country. Cancer Control - Cancer, Culture and Literacy Supplement, November, 70-76.

Chavez, V., Buran, B., Baker, Q.E., Avila, M.M. & Wallerstein, N. (2003). The dance of race and privilege in community based participatory research. In M. Minkler & N. Wallerstein (Eds.), Community based participatory research for health. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Lazarus, S., Duran, B., Caldwell, L. & Bulbulia, S. (2012). Public health research and action: Reflections on challenges and possibilities of Community-Based Participatory Research. In J. Maddock (Ed.), Public health - Social and behavioural health. ISBN: 978-953-51-0620-3, InTech.

Lewis, Jordan P. and Boyd, Keri (2011). Determined by the community: CBPR in Alaska Native communities building local control and self-determination. Journal of Indigenous Research: Vol. 1: Iss. 2, Article 6.

Wallerstein, N. & Duran, B. (2006). Using community-based participatory research to address health disparities. Health Promotion Practice, 7(3), 312-323.


Action Research at the encyclopaedia of informal education - infed. This short article explores different Action Research traditions along with an introduction to further reading.

Action Research at Wikipedia for an overview of Action Research as research driven by the agenda of participants working collaboratively with researchers.

International Resources for Community-Based Participatory Research, Center for Indigenous Health Research.