EDD 8302 Steps 1, 2, and 3 of Action Research

Steps 1, 2, and 3 of Action Research

Capella University

Steps 1, 2, and 3 of Action Research

Beck (2016) explains that Action Research is an inquiry or research in the context of highly focused efforts to improve a situation. A situation can be improved by creating best practices or increase the performance and quality of an organization, usually of an educational organization. This paper describes the first three steps of action research, and describes how the stages use quantitative and qualitative data. The paper also describes Stringer’s idea of the different communities that are involved in action research and the important role of ethics in action research (Reason & Bradbury 2008).

First three Steps of Action Research

Both the ARPP multimedia piece and Chapter 3 in the Action Research text provide a clear picture of the steps of action research. According to these resources, the first three steps of action research are (1) identifying an issue or topic to study, (2) collecting data related to the identified issue or topic, and (3) analyzing and interpreting the collected data. The cycle of action research is not complete with the last stages of reporting the results from the analyzed data and taking informed action deduced from the results (McNiff, 2013).

McNiff (2013) explains that the first AR step involves identifying an issue or topic to study also called select a focus. This step has three sub-steps including a) know what you want (issue) to investigate; b) develop questions about the chosen area; and c) establish a plan to answer the questions. The AR process starts with serious reflection to identify a topic or issue worthy of improvement. The chosen activity must be able to bring change and improvement to the organization. Therefore, selecting a focus or issue is vitally important (Beck, 2016).

According to McNiff (2013), after knowing the focus, it is important to clarify theories. This involves identifying the beliefs, values, and theoretical perspectives, which the researchers will hold on to in relation to their focus. For instance, if issue of concern entails increasing responsible classroom behavior, beginning by clarifying the approach like punishments and rewards etc. may be important in helping students obtain habits of responsible classroom behavior. Once the focus or issue has been selected and with the researcher’s obtained perspectives and beliefs concerning that focus, the researcher then develops meaningful research questions which will guide the inquiry (Reason & Bradbury 2008).

The second AR step involves collecting data also known as investigating the issue of focus. After identifying the area of focus, and armed with inquiry questions, the researcher gathers information to answer the questions. Every single data must be directly linked to the area of focus. For instance, if the focus is to improve the students’ vocabulary, then collecting data on reading, or students’ homework won’t help. The researcher must collect data that relates to methods of improving students’ vocabulary (McNiff, 2013).

Action researcher must base their deductions on the best data. They accomplish this by ensuring that they justify their actions using valid and reliable data. Before using the data to infer or make decisions, they must be confident that the information from the data align with the unique characteristics of their area of focus and can bring the needed improvement. To ensure reasonable reliability and validity, the action researchers must avoid relying on single data sources. They can use triangulation to enhance the reliability and validity of their findings (Rowell, Riel & Polush, 2016).

The third step in AR involves analyzing and interpreting the collected data. Once the action researcher has collected relevant data, the researcher can initiate data analysis and interpretation to arrive at desired decision. The purpose of this step is threefold: a) to summarize or describe data clearly; b) to investigate consistency of themes or patterns among the data; and c) to enable the researcher to answer the research questions (Reason & Bradbury 2008).

In reference to McNiff (2013), the action researcher will lay out the collected data and interpret them using the specified standards. The researcher will then chart the expected results for each employed data collection instrument and note how the standard was attained. Then, the researcher draws conclusions and makes deductions. Action research rarely uses the complex statistical calculations like traditional research. During this step the researchers methodically sort, examine, rank, and sift the data to ensure that they can solve there are of focus.

How Quantitative Data and Qualitative Data Initially used in Action Research

Some people may ask if action research can be quantitative. Action research cab be quantitative although it is typically qualitative research. Often, action research utilizes natural language instead of numbers. Notably, the utilization of natural language is best for a paradigm that is responsive and participative to the situation. Naturally, people communicate in language. Since action research seeks to improve situations that people have in the institution, communication is one of its important parts, particularly in its participative varieties. The benefits of the qualitative data in AR is that it offers richer information that has a deeper insight into the situation under study (Rowell, Riel & Polush, 2016).

Action Research presents a holistic method to problem-solving, instead of a single method for data collection and analysis. Thus, among the several different research tools used in AR most are qualitative research paradigm. These qualitative approaches include keeping a research journal, participant observation recordings, document collection and analysis, case studies, questionnaire surveys, and unstructured and structured interviews. In action research qualitative research, in its exploration of opinion, value, and, assumptions allows a deeper understanding of situations to be improved (Beck, 2016).

Quantitative data are valuable in AR. When suitable quantitative data is available, there are all reasons to use the in action research. In action research, quantitative data must be transformed in order to be used. The quantitative data in the early stages of AR are organized, displayed, and counted by categories depending on the researcher categorization methodology e.g. by classroom, school, and grade level. This enables appropriate usage of data during the data analysis and interpretation phases. Quantitative data must be well organized to present AR in the most useable and concise way possible (Reason & Bradbury 2008).

The Different Communities Involved in an AR Project

Stringer (1999) outlines that Action Research has to be “community-based”. According to Stringer (1999), Action research arises from the proposition that certain generalized solutions are not good for particular groups or contexts of people, thus making the purpose of inquiry to find an appropriate solution for the particular dynamics in a community or at work using a local solution” (p.5). With this robust statement, Stringer clarifies it from the start that “action research is for solving a community’s problem” (Stringer, 1999 p.12). For instance, offering a solution to something in a community to improve the status of the community.

Stringer (1999) gives an example of a school as a community that can benefit from action research. Other communities that are involved in an action research project include hospitals such as the Veteran Health Administration, schools, and stakeholders of these institutions. For instance, in an action research project teachers and school systems could provide successful and appropriate educational experiences. The research community starting from traditional researchers are also involved in action research project.

Role of Ethics in Action Research

Action researchers must consider ethical considerations while conducting their work. Such considerations including ensuring consultation of relevant committees, persons and authorities. This ensures that every stakeholder accepts the principles guiding the work. All participants are allowed to influence the work. Through ethics, the wishes of the people without desire to participate in the research are respected. Additionally, the research’s development remains open and visible to suggestions. Furthermore, ethics in AR makes sure that the researchers obtain permission before making observations and examining documents meant for other purposes. The researcher must acknowledge other’s points and accept responsibility for keeping others’ work confidentiality. Through ethics, decisions made in AR about the direction and outcomes are collective (Reason & Bradbury 2008).

In conclusion, Action Research is a method of self-reflective enquiry carried out by researchers in social situations so as to improve situations in a given setting. Thus like every research, it has steps. Its key steps must be followed procedurally and carefully to ensure that expected results are met. In Action research, effectiveness comes when the outcome surfaces from data. Thus, data collection and analysis must be robust and analytic to attain best results.


Beck, C., (2016). Informal action research: The nature and contributioni of everyday classroom inquiry. In L. Rowell, C. Bruce, J. Shosh & M. Riel, (Eds). Palgrave Interactional Handbook of Action Research. Palgrave: (in Press).

McNiff, J. (2013). Action Research: Principals and practice (Third Edition). New York: Routledge.

Reason, Peter & Bradbury, Hilary (Eds.) (2008). Action research: Participative inquiry and practice (second edition). London: Sage.

Rowell, L., Riel, M., Polush, E. (2016). Defining action research: Situating diverse practices within varying frames of inquiry, science and action.

Stringer, E. (1999). Action research. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.

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