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Action research is a paradigm of inquiry where the researcher’s primary objective is to enhance the capacity and consequent process the researcher follows instead of producing theoretical knowledge (Elliott, 1991). Enhancing practice refers to the enhancement of the product quality and improving the existing process.
An important feature of action research is that the researcher institutes change based on an emotion that something needs to change to create a better situation. The aim of the researcher is to provide direction towards realizing the goals. The researcher may act with a team or as an individual. The researcher tries to improve the skills of the client and also enhances his knowledge during the research process. The researcher leads the process of research by problem identification, collects the relevant facts and opinions from the clients, and identifies the research gaps. There is a cohesive conception among all the researchers, and there is no division of specialized roles or tasks. The researcher and the client jointly identify actions to take and analysis of the result are done jointly, reflect on these actions and results, and also recommend new courses of action. The researcher and the clients act together to actualize agreeable results for the change. The group is lead by the researcher who identifies the steps for dissemination, but need not inevitably engage in these actions.
Participative research is a method where the primary objective of the researcher is to develop an environment and process where context-specific knowledge is emerged to develop a theory that is logical and actionable. Participative research is suggested by the organization of interest. The researcher and participant’s team up keenly in a group process to study and modify their social reality (Whyte, 1989).
All members of the organization are allowed to participate in case of participative research. Participants must be keen to participate and take on dynamic roles and define the problem, choose the methodology of collecting the data, analyze the data, report the findings, and create action. Participants treat each other as contemporaries. Through the exchange of dialogic process, the participants and researcher learn together. The role of the researcher is not of an expert but as a co-learner. The researcher has less control on the research design and from where the data comes and he also has less control in the research process. A participative researcher has to develop a context specific structure, be flexible to changes in the structure based on the participant’s knowledge. The result of this type of association is very context specific to enhance new shared understandings.
Participatory action research incorporates both the aims of superior capacity and practice of researchers, as in the case of action research, and also attains practical objectives and varying social reality, as in the case of participatory research, through the process of group participation. Planning participants are those who are affected by a problem, they carry out the research process, analyse the data, and report the research findings. Enhancing the knowledge of the participants is an essential objective of the desired outcome. This method is proposed by the organization of interest and employs researchers that contribute to control of the social process design with the help of the participants in the organization.
The research design is planned after joint discussion with the researchers and the participants. In case of participatory action research people who are affected by a problem are in a better position to give a suitable solution. Specific and empirical information is given more importance. Participants carry out the data collection process and results are analyzed by them. The researcher does not have control in terms of the research design but they have to be present where the problem is relevant and give valuable inputs. In particular, when there are complex situations with no clear line of examination to follow, participatory action research contributes to the existing body of knowledge and helps in theory building.
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