The word “action” in PAR signals that the research is to encompass and generate activity and change. However, there are considerable differences in the emphasis given to action in the research including its orientation (eg internal or external, personal or collective), scale (local or societal) and frequency (episodic or systemic), all shaped by the context and intentions of the participants.
Some writers would prefer the term “participatory research” over and above “participatory action research” because, they argue, action research is not as orientated towards social change (e.g. Stoeker, 1999) and does not necessary engage participants directly in the research process (Kindon et al, 2007). An alternative view is presented by Chatterton et al (2007). They argue that it is not the word “action” that needs replacing but that it needs re-energizing as too much focus has been placed on research at the expense of action. They assert the need for “putting the activism back into action” and the importance of “academic activists”.
..significant social transformation does not come through using participatory techniques or appraisal methods to elicit the views of a community facing the construction of a proposed dam by the World Bank, for example. Social transformation requires working with that community to understand how World Bank policy works, so as to resist and possibly reverse the dam’s construction. Chatterton, Fuller & Routledge, 2007: 218.
Posts that might help….action
Chatterton, P., Fuller, D., & Routledge, P. (2007). Relating action to activism: Theoretical and methodological reflections. In S. Kindon, R. Pain, & Kesby, M. (2007). Participatory action research approaches and methods: connecting people, participation and place. Routledge studies in human geography, 22. London: Routledge.
Kindon, S. L., Pain, R., & Kesby, M. (2007). Participatory action research approaches and methods: connecting people, participation and place. Routledge studies in human geography, 22. London: Routledge.
Stoecker, R. (1999). Are Academics Irrelevant? Roles for Scholars in Participatory Research. American Behavioural Scientist, 42 (5), 840-854.