Action Research Papers are Really Challenging

What is an action research paper?

An action research paper is distinct from a term paper, an essay, or a regular research paper in that it outlines specific recommendations for dealing with an issue of public policy or social justice. Unlike typical research papers, an action research paper is focused on experimental or quasi-experimental work that is conducted to improve social conditions, remedy a social problem, better society, or address a demand or need that a group of stakeholders has raised.

This is distinct from a traditional research paper in that it is more focused on applied research with real-world effects. Phenomena are not studied in a laboratory or using purely archival or experimental methods, and the main research question is not focused on theory or conceptual matters solely, but is interested in which potential solution will actually address the social problem that requires “action”. Accordingly, several elements of an action research paper are very different and extra challenging to write. Here are some areas that are particularly vexing.

Sources and Evidence are More Applied

When working on a research paper in the hard sciences or less applied sciences, the sources under consideration and citation are often from academic journal articles, academic books, archival research, and experimental studies. These sources are interested in explaining the nature of a phenomenon and forming a rigorous, parsimonious theory that describes the phenomenon in a broad way.

In action research papers, however, your sources should involve examinations of real-life interventions. Social programs and public interventions should be examined. The sample populations should be actual community members or people in need, and they should represent the population of interest very directly. Experiments performed on volunteers or college students are not applicable. Short-term experiments are not as useful as longitudinal studies, and so on.

Recommendations are Included

Action research papers are also distinct from regular research papers in that there is an element of advocacy in them. A research paper in the sciences is likely to provide an overview of a research topic, marshaling evidence and organizing it in a coherent, informative way, but there is probably not a clear perspective or any advocacy coming from the writer of the essay.

In action research, this is not the case. The action researcher has an explicit goal to further a social cause or locate an actionable solution to a social problem (such as poverty, drug use, incarceration, or something else). Therefore the paper should not just summarize findings, but should actually make a best-practices recommendation for changes that should occur and interventions that work well.

By keeping these unique elements of an action research paper in mind, you can complete this challenging task and produce a well-written, researched, and appropriate paper.

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Posted by December 3rd, 2014