Qual Data Analysis & Action Research

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Qualitative data analysis varies by methodology. Learn about approaches for action research in these open access articles.

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Action research is a flexible research methodology uniquely suited to researching and supporting change. It integrates social research with exploratory action to promote development. In its classic form, action research involves fluid and overlapping cycles of investigation, action planning, piloting of new practices, and evaluation of outcomes incorporating at all stages the collection and analysis of data and the generation of knowledge (Given, 2008).

This collection of open access articles offers diverse perspectives on data analysis in action research.

Working Towards the Promise of Participatory Action Research: Learning From Ageing Research Exemplars (Benjamin-Thomas, Corrado, McGrath, Rudman, & Hand, 2018)

Abstract. Within research addressing issues of social justice, there is a growing uptake of participatory action research (PAR) approaches that are ideally committed to equitable participation of community members in all phases of the research process in order to collaboratively enact social transformation. However, the utilization of such approaches has not always matched the ideal, with inconsistencies in how participation and action are incorporated. “Participation” within various research processes is displayed differently, with the involvement of community members varying from full participation to their involvement as simply participants for data collection. Similarly, “action” is varyingly enacted from researchers proposing research implications for policy and practice to the meaningful involvement of community members in facilitating social change. This inconsistency in how PAR is utilized, despite widespread publications outlining key principles and central tenets, suggests there are challenges preventing researchers from fully embracing and enacting the central tenets of equitable participation and social transformation. This article intends to provide one way forward, for scholars intending to more fully enact the central tenets of PAR, through critically discussing how, and to what extent, the principles of PAR were enacted within 14 key exemplars of PAR conducted with older adults. More specifically, we display and discuss key principles for enacting the full commitment of PAR, highlight a critical appraisal guide, critically analyze exemplars, and share strategies that researchers have used to address these commitments. The critical appraisal guide and associated research findings provide useful directions for researchers who desire to more fully embrace commitments and practices commensurate with enacting the promise of PAR for equitable collaboration and social transformation.

Doing Participatory Action Research in a Multicase Study: A Methodological Example(Fletcher, MacPhee, & Dickson, 2015)

Abstract. In this article, we describe an approach for conducting participatory action research (PAR) in a longitudinal multicase study, with particular focus on cross-case analysis. Existing literature has documented the practice of PAR in single-case studies, but far less has been written on how to conduct PAR across multiple cases. There is also a need for instructional examples of multicase study application, particularly methods of cross-case analysis. In PAR, research methods—including data analysis methods—have the power to shape participant inclusion or exclusion, involvement or attrition, and mobilization of knowledge in real time. In response to these challenges, we discuss the analysis methods used in a PAR study of health leadership in Canada. The project, which consisted of six case studies of leadership in major health system change, involved health leaders as collaborators. We address the challenges of doing PAR with collaborators facing time limitations and suggest a project structure for involving collaborators at critical junctures. We present a detailed, two-part method for conducting cross-case data analysis. Our method involved targeted collaborator involvement in data interpretation while also ensuring faithfulness to the coded data. We describe our process for mobilizing study findings through a deliberative dialogue with health leaders.

Exploring Types of Educational Action Research: Implications for Research Validity (Newton & Burgess, 2008)

Abstract. In this paper the authors argue that there are three modes of educational action research: emancipatory, practical, and knowledge generating. Furthermore, they suggest that much of action research, although predicated on notions of emancipatory research, is often not primarily emancipatory in nature. There are considerable risks involved when action research fails to adequately justify its truth claims because of a dependence on validities that primarily assess the emancipatory features of the research. Consequently, the authors propose that the various modes of action research require emphasis on different validities that are dependent on the purposes of the research. In doing this, they offer a reconceptualization of Anderson and Herr’s (1999) influential approach to validity in action research.

An Application of Two-Eyed Seeing: Indigenous Research Methods With Participatory Action Research  (Peltier, 2018)

Abstract. In this time of reconciliation, Indigenous researchers-in-relation are sharing research paradigms and approaches that align with Indigenous worldviews. This article shares an interpretation of the Mi’kmaw concept of Two-Eyed Seeing as the synthesis of Indigenous methodology and participatory action research situated within an Indigenous paradigm of relevant, reciprocal, respectful, and responsible research. Two-Eyed Seeing is discussed as a guiding approach for researchers offering Indigenous voices and ways of knowing as a means to shift existing qualitative research paradigms. The author offers practical considerations for conducting research with Indigenous peoples in a “good and authentic way.” Through the co-creation of knowledge with Indigenous communities, a collective story was produced as a wellness teaching tool to foster the transfer of knowledge in a meaningful way.

Action researcher to design innovation catalyst: Building design capability from within (Price, Wrigley, & Matthews, 2018)

Abstract. Design as a creative way of framing and solving problems is considered an essential business capability in an innovation era. Organizations with design capability can improve the lives of their customers, stakeholders and employees by creating valuable products, services and experiences. Design-led innovation is a framework that assists organizations to develop design capability for creating a better future as well as profitability. However, implementing design-led innovation requires support. This article presents insights from an action research extended to design innovation catalyst. The catalyst’s aim was to facilitate implementation of design-led innovation in an Australian Airport Corporation to develop design capability. To date, this extended role of action researcher as design innovation catalyst has received limited attention. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to present insights from the experience of the action researcher as a design innovation catalyst. This paper contributes conceptual and practical insight into the research design, action research cycles and critical reflection of an action researcher operating as design innovation catalyst.

Examining innovation as process: Action research in journalism studies (Wagemans & Witschge, 2019)

In this article, we discuss how ‘action research’ as an experiential research approach allows us to address challenges encountered in researching a converged and digital media landscape. We draw on our experiences as researchers, co-developers and marketeers in the European Union-funded Innovation Action project ‘INnovative Journalism: Enhanced Creativity Tools’ (INJECT) aimed at developing a technological tool for journalism. In this media innovation process, as in other media practices, longstanding delineations no longer hold, due to converging professional disciplines and blurring roles of users and producers. First, we discuss four features of innovation in the current ‘digital’ media landscape that come with specific methodological requirements: (a) the iterative nature of innovation; (b) converged practices, professions and roles; (c) the dispersed geographic nature of media production and innovation processes and (d) the impact of human and non-human actors. We suggest action research as a possible answer to these requirements of the digital media landscape. Drawing on our experiences in the INJECT project, we illustrate how adopting an action research approach provides insight into the non-linear, iterative and converged character of innovation processes by highlighting: (a) how innovation happens at various moments, in various places and by various people; (b) how perceptions and enactments of professions change over time and (c) how roles are (re)combined and expanded in such a way that clear delineation is not easy. Ultimately, we argue that experiencing convergence through action research enables us to do justice to the complexity of the current media landscape.

Related MethodSpace Posts


Benjamin-Thomas, T. E., Corrado, A. M., McGrath, C., Rudman, D. L., & Hand, C. (2018). Working towards the promise of participatory action research: Learning from ageing research exemplars. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 17(1), 1609406918817953. doi:10.1177/1609406918817953

Bruce, C. (2007). Questions arising about emergence, data collection, and its interaction with analysis in a grounded theory study. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 6(1), 51-68. doi:10.1177/160940690700600105

Fletcher, A. J., MacPhee, M., & Dickson, G. (2015). Doing participatory action research in a multicase study: A methodological example. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 14(5), 1609406915621405. doi:10.1177/1609406915621405

Given, L. M. (2008). Action research The SAGE Encyclopedia of qualitative research methods. Thousand Oaks, California.

Newton, P., & Burgess, D. (2008). Exploring types of educational action research: implications for research validity. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 7(4), 18-30. doi:10.1177/160940690800700402

Peltier, C. (2018). An application of two-eyed seeing: Indigenous research methods with participatory action research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 17(1), 1609406918812346. doi:10.1177/1609406918812346

Price, R., Wrigley, C., & Matthews, J. (2018). Action researcher to design innovation catalyst: Building design capability from within. Action Research, 1476750318781221. doi:10.1177/1476750318781221

Rankin, J. (2017). Conducting analysis in institutional ethnography: Analytical work prior to commencing data collection. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 16(1), 1609406917734484. doi:10.1177/1609406917734484

Scott, K. W., & Howell, D. (2008). Clarifying analysis and interpretation in grounded theory: using a conditional relationship guide and reflective coding matrix. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 7(2), 1-15. doi:10.1177/160940690800700201

Tan, H., Wilson, A., & Olver, I. (2009). Ricoeur’s theory of interpretation: an instrument for data interpretation in hermeneutic phenomenology. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(4), 1-15. doi:10.1177/160940690900800401

Wagemans, A., & Witschge, T. (2019). Examining innovation as process: Action research in journalism studies. Convergence, 25(2), 209-224. doi:10.1177/1354856519834880

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