Participatory Action Research: Theoretical Foundations Dr Julie Clark

‘For better or worse, the Anthropocene may end up being the shortest [era] in geological history…More than ever, researchers must inquire into long-term issues where facts are uncertain, not all factors and knowable and stakes are high’ (Chevalier and Buckles, 2013:2)

Participatory Action Research (PAR) presents a challenge to both research and society, involving risk alongside its considerable potential to deliver rewards. The core principles of PAR include a determination to generate knowledge collaboratively, working together with others as they (re)define and challenge the problems they face. Critical in developing new understandings, participatory approaches value the knowledge, capabilities and experiences of all those involved in or affected by a situation; by virtue of this approach, PAR can be used to expose power relations, offering pathways to enact positive change for marginalised groups. As a research process, PAR can sometimes require radical shifts in both mindset and practice for the researcher, subverting established assumptions about the nature and value of our approaches to engaging with different social issues. The opening session of this Spring Into Methods introduction to PAR explores the theoretical foundations of this transformative paradigm, highlighting the positionality of the researcher in relation to their inquiry, to the other people involved, and to the wider socio-political context within which their research takes place.

Suggested Readings

Academic Articles

  • Chevalier, J.M. and Buckles, D.J. (2013) Participatory Action Research: Theory and methods for engaged inquiry. Abingdon: Routledge.
  • Friere, P. (1996) Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Trans: Myra Bergman Ramos). London: Penguin.
  • Reason, P. and Bradbury, H. (Eds) (2013) The Sage Handbook of Action Research: Participative inquiry and practice, 2nd Edition. London: Sage.
  • Stringer, E.T. (2007) Action Research, 3rd Edition. London: Sage.

Resources and Presentation Recordings

Slides from the workshop presentation are available to view below, click on the first image to view as a slideshow.

Delivery team bio:

Dr Julie Clark is a policy researcher with a special interest in the impacts of the urban environment on health and wellbeing. She lectures in Sociology and Social Policy at the University of the West of Scotland and also works an Associate Director of the Economic and Social Research Council Doctoral Training Partnership at the Scottish Graduate School for Social Science. Julie has given evidence to both Scottish and Local Government committees and presented research findings to a range of transport, health, housing, sports and leisure agencies. Her multi-stakeholder work with policy-makers, practitioners, community groups and schools has been recognised with a Research Council UK Award for Research Impact.

PAR can sometimes require radical shifts in both mindset and practice for the researcher
Created By
Alison McCandlish


Photos by Alison McCandlish

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