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Table 1 Essential elements of participatory action research

From: Implementation research design: integrating participatory action research into randomized controlled trials

Quotes from Published Definitions References
Names Used  
Participatory action research
Qualifiers: cooperative inquiry; appreciative inquiry; community-based participatory research; action learning; action science; developmental action inquiry
[2224, 3540, 4450]
Purpose of the Action Research  
Generation of new knowledge
Qualifiers: practice-grounded, compelling enough to motivate to action; answer a question of importance to each other
[24, 32, 34, 36, 38, 39, 46, 51, 52]
Qualifiers: social change; improvement; improve health/well-being; take action; solution generation; planning action steps; engage in quest for information/ideas to guide future actions
[2224, 32, 3537, 52, 53]
Educating [23, 24, 32, 36, 54]
Theory generation or refinement [23, 52]
Relationship building
Qualifiers: strengthen relationships among group members, learn to integrate individualizing characteristics with a deeper communion with others and the world; involvement;
[23, 27, 38, 55]
Developmental/Transformative for the individuals or organizations involved
Qualifiers: a re-educative process that develops capabilities and transforms individuals/teams through experiential engagement; empowerment; reciprocal transfer of expertise
[23, 24, 35, 51, 53, 54]
Qualifiers: problem identification; diagnosing a problem; define a pressing problem; an agreed area of human activity; solution generation; planning action steps; engage actively in the quest for information and ideas to guide future actions
[22, 23, 3439, 54]
Systematic [32, 36]
Qualifiers: emergence; adaptive cycles of action-feedback-action-feedback-action; repeated episodes of reflection and action; between meetings, members inquire into their own practice, observe, and implement new actions to help learn something new about the question; four phases of reflection and action; experimentation; learning at each step to inform the next set of decisions/actions; evaluation leads to diagnosing the situation anew based on incremental learnings
[23, 34, 35, 37, 39, 51]
Qualifiers: self-reflective; members reflect together on their work; inquiring deeply into assumptions and root causes, and transferring learning at multiple levels
[23, 27, 3840, 52]
Collaborative Design and Evaluation
Qualifiers: partnership; collective; group activity; mutualistic; inclusive; collaboration shapes and transforms methods; co-learning; participation of all relevant constituencies or stakeholders; involve all participants in all aspects of the research process; organization members participate throughout the research process from the initial design to the final presentation of results and discussion of their implications; reciprocal transfer of expertise; shared decision making power; mutual ownership of the processes and products of the research enterprise; facilitators and group participants co-author reports to present findings; participate in the research processes, which in turn are applied in ways that benefit all participants; multiple person, multiple perspective with participants as co-researchers
[2224, 3239, 49, 51, 52]
Context specific
Qualifiers: Must be applicable to the system in which the inquiry takes place
[23, 46, 51, 56]
Studying the whole or the patterns rather than the parts [33, 35, 52]
Qualitative and quantitative data collection and analysis
Qualifiers: mixed method designs collecting/analyzing both qualitative and quantitative data in single study; concurrent triangulation with multi-strand, multi-wave design; data collected/analyzed simultaneously/iteratively
[23, 28, 34, 52]
Qualifiers: Professional action researchers, core research team members, researchers
[2224, 38, 49]
Whoever is affected by the problem being studied
Qualifiers: Requisite variety; system members; communities; those affected by the issue being studied; representatives of organizations; members of an organization or community seeking to improve their situation; group of peers
[24, 32, 38, 39, 46, 49]
Fields Represented  
Health Related: Public Health, Primary Care, Patient Care, Nursing, Health Education, Health Sociology, Disability Research, Environmental Health, Injury Research, Mental Health, Reproductive Health  
Non-Health Related: Anthropology, Business Administration (Organizational Change/Development, Management, Human-Information System Interfaces), Sociology, Community Development, Community Psychology