Review Essay: Getting with the Act of Action Research

  • Victoria J. Palmer University of Melbourne
Keywords: action research, research methods, transformation, change and ethics


Action research (AR) prides itself on being a field of both theoretical and practical inquiry. Its scholarly identity rests heavily on framing participants as engaged, subjective, and participatory beings who learn and change through research processes. Yet, action research struggles to be considered a rigorous methodological field of inquiry and certainly there have been those who have raised questions about its validity as a research method. Where action research is used, qualifications and justifications abound as people struggle to have their research heard over other disciplines and techniques that claim more validity or appropriateness of methods. As a community development practitioner, I have employed AR approaches in the design and application of projects. As an academic, I have had the opportunity to design and facilitate meetings using participatory action research methods for data collection and to develop ground-up interventions with primary health care professionals. Therefore, I was eager to read about AR theoretical developments and to examine this text for its core purpose: as a "handbook" to guide research and practice. The handbook boasts 32 chapters covering theory, practices, exemplars, and skills which I reviewed with particular attention to where, how, and why I would use the content and whether it offered what a research handbook should—practical assistance in design, application, analysis, and synthesis for AR. Overall, the handbook does provide extensive examples about research projects and process. In future editions though, I would like to see more attention to complementary methods that can be employed in AR and attention to methods for the analysis of data generated via action research approaches. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0903268


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Author Biography

Victoria J. Palmer, University of Melbourne
Victoria J. PALMER is an applied ethicist and postdoctoral research fellow in mental health with the Primary Care Research Unit, The Department of General Practice, The University of Melbourne. She is chief investigator for a qualitative study to examine generalism as a philosophy within primary medical care and a pilot intervention to improve community coordination access and networks (I-CCAaN) in primary care for people with depression, anxiety and related disorders with co-morbid chronic physical illnesses. Victoria is interested in narrative analysis, theories of embodiment and communal belonging.
How to Cite
Palmer, V. J. (2009). Review Essay: Getting with the Act of Action Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(3).