Participatory Action Research (PAR) is a collaborative research methodology that emphasizes the participation of those affected by the research in all process phases. The methods entail the identification of the research question, data collection, analysis, and dissemination of results. The approach is used in education, health, social work, and community development to empower marginalized communities. Also, the method is used to address social and political issues affecting these marginalized people’s lives. PAR is defined by its commitment to social justice and the transformation of power while seeking to give voice to marginalized communities and bring social change via research and action.
The components, characteristics, and best practices of PAR:
Firstly we have the active participation of community members, stakeholders, and researchers throughout the research process. The second component is collaboration, where PAR makes a collaborative effort that involves an equal partnership between community members and researchers. Guy et al. (2020) suggest the other component is action, and PAR aims to create actionable knowledge that leads to social change and empowerment. Finally, we have reflection where PAR involves a review of the research process and outcomes.
The first characteristic is participatory, where PAR is a participatory approach to research where community members and stakeholders have an active role in the research process. Secondly, we have contextual where PAR is context-specific and involves an understanding of the research’s social, cultural, and economic context. Thirdly, we have empowering, where PAR aims to empower individuals and communities to take action on the issues that affect them. Finally, democratic where PAR is a democratic approach to research that values the perspectives and voices of all participants.
Establishing relationships and building trust with community members and stakeholders is essential to the success of PAR. Secondly, PAR involves diverse perspectives by ensuring that diverse perspectives are represented throughout the research process. Thirdly, PAR collaborates equally between community members and researchers and is based on equal partnership and shared decision-making. According to Van de Ven, Boardley & Chandler (2022), PAR takes action and results in actionable knowledge that leads to social change and empowerment. The final best practice is reflecting on the research process, and outcomes should be a continuous part of PAR.
Comparison between PAR and Traditional Scientific Research method
The main goal of PAR is to empower participants and promote social change, whereas the main objective of traditional scientific research is to uncover new knowledge and understand natural phenomena. PAR is a collaborative and iterative process involving active participation and community members’ input, while traditional scientific research typically follows a more structured and controlled approach. Liamputtong (2019) suggests that In PAR, data is often collected through qualitative methods such as interviews, focus groups, and observations. Traditional scientific research usually relies on quantitative methods such as experiments and surveys. In PAR, data is often analyzed collaboratively with community members, while traditional scientific research is typically diagnosed by researchers alone using statistical methods. PAR aims to produce actionable outcomes that promote social change and address community needs. In contrast, traditional scientific research aims to generate new knowledge that can be applied broadly to a particular field.
Strengths and weaknesses
Strengths entail; the empowerment of community members and stakeholders to take an active role in the research process, which can lead to an increased sense of ownership and responsibility for the research outcomes. Bennett (2020) suggests PAR encourages collaboration and partnerships between researchers and community members, which can lead to more effective and sustainable solutions. Finally, there is diversity where PAR involves various community members with diverse perspectives and experiences, which can lead to a more comprehensive understanding of the research problem.
Include; PAR can be time-consuming and resource-intensive due to the need for ongoing collaboration and participation from community members. The other weakness is that the involvement of community members in the research process can potentially introduce bias and subjectivity to the research findings. Finally, the community members may not have the same level of expertise as trained researchers, which can limit the scope and depth of the research.
Firstly, PAR requires significant time and resources, including funding, staff, and participant time. This can be a limitation, particularly for organizations or communities with limited resources. Secondly, there exists potential for bias. PAR involves active participation by participants, which can introduce bias into the research process. According to Bennett (2020), participants may have their agendas or perspectives, which can influence the research findings. There is a possibility of power dynamics where power dynamics between researchers and participants can limit PAR. Researchers may hold more power and influence than participants, which can affect the research process and the findings.
Ways to address the limitations
Firstly, establish clear goals and objectives. It is essential to set clear goals and objectives for the PAR project, including the scope and focus of the research. This can help to ensure that the investigation is focused and targeted and that resources are used effectively. Secondly, build strong partnerships. Liamputtong, P. (2019) suggests that building strong partnerships between researchers and participants is critical to the success of PAR. This can involve developing trust, mutual respect, and open communication. Thirdly, ensure inclusivity, and PAR should be inclusive and involve all stakeholders, including those who may not have traditionally had a voice in research processes. This can help to ensure that the research is relevant and responsive to the needs of the community or organization.
Moreover, utilizing a mixed-methods approach which combines both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, can help to ensure that the findings are robust and credible. Liamputtong (2019) explains that addressing power dynamics between researchers and participants, such as training participants on research methods and promoting equal participation and decision-making. Additionally, focus on capacity building within communities or organizations. This can involve providing participants with training, resources, and support and building their skills and knowledge. Finally, emphasize dissemination and impact. It is essential to focus on the dissemination and impact of the research findings, including sharing the results with participants, stakeholders, and policymakers and using them to drive change and improve outcomes.
Ways in which PAR can be used to design and finalize a research paper
Firstly, identify key stakeholders who are involved in and affected by the issue of mass youth incarceration and youth courts. This includes young people, their families, community organizations, legal advocates, policymakers, and other relevant stakeholders. Secondly, build relationships with stakeholders by conducting interviews or focus groups to learn about their perspectives, experiences, and needs. Also, collaboratively develop research questions with the stakeholders. This could involve brainstorming sessions or workshops where stakeholders share their ideas and insights. Guy et al. (2020) suggest that the research questions should be relevant, meaningful, and actionable. The other way is co-design the research methodology with the stakeholders by involving them in deciding on the data collection methods, such as surveys, interviews, or observations, and identifying the sampling strategy and data analysis techniques. Also, collecting and analyzing data could involve conducting interviews, surveys, or observations and using qualitative or quantitative data analysis methods to analyze the data.
Additionally, co-interpret the findings once the data has been analyzed with the stakeholders. This could involve sharing the results through workshops, community meetings, or other forums and inviting stakeholders to provide feedback and insights. Guy et al. (2020) add that the final step is to co-write the research paper with the stakeholders. This last step involves organizing workshops or collaborative writing sessions where stakeholders contribute their ideas and insights. The research paper should reflect the perspectives and experiences of the stakeholders and provide actionable recommendations for how youth courts can serve as an alternative to mass youth incarceration in poor and underserved communities.
Bennett, M. (2020). A review of the literature on the benefits and drawbacks of participatory action research. First Peoples Child & Family Review, 1(1), 19-32.
https://doi.org/10.7202/1069582arCopiedAn error has oc
Guy, B., Feldman, T., Cain, C., Leesman, L., & Hood, C. (2020). Defining and navigating ‘action in a Participatory Action Research project. Educational Action Research, 28(1), 142-153.
Liamputtong, P. (2019). Handbook of research methods in health social sciences.
Van de Ven, K., Boardley, I., & Chandler, M. (2022). Through participatory action research, identifying best-practice amongst health professionals who work with people using the image and performance-enhancing drugs (IPEDs). Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise, and Health, 14(2), 199-215.