Action Research

Action research is a strategy for dealing with real-world problems. It is carried out in partnership with the persons and institutions who are directly affected. Its defining principles are collaboration, mutual education, and action for change. Action research is characterized by a simultaneous focus on action and research as well as a participatory approach. It has a threefold structure – it is:

  • an approach to social investigation
  • an educational process
  • a way of taking action in order to solve a specific problem (Hall, 1981, as quoted by Kelly, 2005).

The process of action research is cyclical in nature and includes repeated phases of planning, action, evaluation and reflection. An overlap of the different phases is frequent and certain activities take place simultaneously. A decisive element is the careful monitoring of each step.

Illustrative Case

Problem/challenge: Seniorweb Switzerland wants to grow in membership size.

Planning: Reach out to potential members with workshops and seminars focusing on different attractive internet applications for persons 50+. Find a low-threshold venue to address target group.

Action: Carry out workshops and seminars in a low-threshold setting (e.g. a shopping mall).

Evaluation: Evaluate action through observation and by questioning workshop participants and course instructors.

Reflection: Formulate the lessons learned and plan the next action research cycle by taking these recommendations into account.


  • Kelly, P.J. (2005) “Practical suggestions for community interventions using participatory action research”, Public Health Nursing, Vol.22, 2005/1, pp. 65-73.


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