Participatory Action Research

Participatory action research (PAR) is one of the most effective research approaches and helps to get better results than traditional research in some fields. In this form of research, researchers cooperate with the participants – people who are the main subjects of the research. In other words, people have an active input in the results. Hence, it is also called community-driven research. In PAR, even though researchers moderate the research, participants have equal contributions. The two sides work like colleagues. It is worth mentioning that the research organizers, stakeholders, etc., can also be part of PAR, but in general, it involves researchers and the community.

Editors of “The SAGE Handbook of Action Research”, Peter Reason and Hilary Bradbury define the PAR as follows:

“Action research is a participatory process concerned with developing practical knowing in the pursuit of worthwhile human purposes. It seeks to bring together action and reflection, theory and practice, in participation with others, in the pursuit of practical solutions to issues of pressing concern to people, and more generally the flourishing of individual persons and their communities.”


What are the benefits PAR offers? What are the key differences between normal research and PAR?


  1. In traditional research, researchers interview, observe people, and that’s it for participants. In contrast, participants don’t just provide feedback but also discuss it with the researchers in PAR.
  2. One of the main issues when it comes to research results is bias.  In PAR, the entire process is controlled by both researchers and the community; therefore, there is little chance for any bias.
  3. The research tries to find answers to improve the situation or solve the issues the community faces. When a community has a chance to be a driving force behind the research process, they are more motivated in providing feedback.
  4. The research design, data collection methods, data analysis are all co-organized with participants to get more in-depth feedback and reliable results.
  5. PAR allows finding answers to certain questions that are not possible to answer by conducting traditional research.  It is sometimes impossible to interpret the feedback provided by participants. In PAR, participants explain certain actions or behavior they demonstrate, making it easier to draw conclusions from feedback.
  6. The community tries its best in PAR because they know they influence the results, and those results directly affect the issues they face.


Participatory action research limitations


  1. Depending on the sample size, the research can take longer than expected because everyone has a voice in the analysis.
  2. More participants mean more data to analyze, which can be another factor in extended research time. Naturally, it gets more challenging to analyze the information if the amount of data is larger.
  3. The results may reflect the reality in just that setting. There may not be room for generalization.

Although PAR provides several benefits, it is not possible to conduct this kind of research in every field or situation. First and foremost, the issue research carried around should be important for the community. Otherwise, they may not be motivated or willing to share information and participate in the research process.