Action research is a type of research used in social sciences that implies taking action toward solving problems while conducting the research. Action research has been proved to be an effective method of addressing certain issues that involve human interaction and cooperation (Stringer, 2013). Also, there are many other areas where the method can be applied to potential success. To assess action research, it is necessary to describe different types of it and identify the differences between it and more conventional kinds of social science research.
First of all, there are different understandings of what action research is. On the one hand, what is described as the key aspect of action research is enabling research participants to address certain issues themselves. Addressing is to be carried out through identifying problems, planning, implementation, and reflection. At the same time, it can be argued that the distinctive characteristic of action research is its circularity. The stages of studies conducted in the action research model may repeat themselves and start over, which makes such studies a kind of progressive problem-solving (Stringer, 2013).
In the process of action research, new data is produced that may change the research framework and even somehow shift the research focus. On the other hand, there is the idea that action research primarily pursues solving urgent problems that are challenging in terms of applying other tools of problem-solving and do not allow extensive examination before addressing them due to the limited time or limited resources. Therefore, what underlies this understanding of action research is the concept of combining research efforts with taking action.
Based on the specific features of action research, it is possible to establish its similarities to the traditional social sciences research and its differences from it. A major similarity is that action research, with all its distinctiveness, is still a social scientific research method for such areas as psychology, sociology, and education that shares common principles of social sciences studies (McNiff, 2013). Studies that employ action research as their paradigm is still aimed at obtaining data that can be transformed into valuable knowledge on a subject and practical information that can help address issues.
A major difference, however, is that traditional research pursues objectivity, i.e. researchers adopt the role of observers and strive to separate themselves from the observed phenomena. Action research, on the contrary, is essentially about intervening in the studied phenomena. Traditional research may suggest recommendations on how to solve particular problems, but it is not supposed to modify the circumstances or situations that it examines. Recommendations, therefore, are based on the description of how things are observed. Action research incorporates modification of the studied phenomena because the examination unfolds along with problem-solving. Besides obtaining valuable knowledge, action research also sets the goal of bringing actual positive change.
Action research is a specific type of research in social sciences that features two major characteristics: progressiveness and involvement of participants and researchers in taking action toward solving particular problems. This type’s similarity to the traditional social scientific research is that it shares common academic principles. However, action research is also different from conventional research in terms of suggesting intervention in the observed phenomena. Action research can be a helpful tool when addressing practical problems in psychology, sociology, education, and other areas of social sciences.