Action Research for my Dissertation – The Do’s and the Don’ts

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Action Research for my Dissertation – The Do’s and the Don’ts


Action research is performed with the intent to identify solutions for problems or it can be a progressive process of problem solving with focus on the reflective process. Action research can also be a part of community of practice that is designed to identify issues and develop proactive solutions. The aim of action research is to develop appropriate guidelines that can be considered to be best practices in any discipline. The researcher pursues an active strategy of participating in the change situation while conducting research. Action is important for research enterprise which differentiates action research from traditional research that takes a distant approach towards research settings. Action researchers strive to study the current actions that play a critical role in any setting. This article will help introduce action research for my dissertation – the do’s and don’ts to research students so they can kickstart their action research project in a timely manner.

Struggling to get going with your dissertation? Here is an article on “How to write a dissertation – Step by step guide

Definition of Action Research

Action research is a disciplined process of inquiry conducted by and for those taking the action. The primary reason for engaging in action research is to assist the “actor” in improving and/or refining his or her actions.

Students who are required to perform action research find the process of action research extremely powerful. One of the foremost benefits of action research is that it is always relevant to the participants. The principal consumers of the findings of any action research projects are the researchers themselves, and so relevance is guaranteed every time.

The Process of Action Research

Action research in education can be performed by the entire faculty of the school, by a group of participants who share common interests, or by an individual. Regardless of who participates in educational action research, the process of action research includes the following seven stages;

  • Selecting a focus
  • Clarifying theories
  • Recognizing research questions
  • Data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Presenting Results
  • Taking informed action

Advantages and Disadvantages

It is important to understand how to perform action research in education settings to establish its advantages and disadvantages. One of the key advantages of action research is that it helps researchers to increase their knowledge through experience. The action research cycle can be a learning cycle with the focus on systematic reflection so that students have an effective ability to learn.  Action research is participative in nature and helps to create an understanding between researchers and the participants of any study (Stringer, 2013).

Finally, students can find it worthwhile to mention a dissertation in their resume that has direct relevance to practice.  There are some disadvantages to this type of research such as the fact that a conventional format cannot be used to write the dissertation. Students will have to learn to employ action research methodology to complete their dissertation papers with action research. Another disadvantage is that the library work for action research is demanding as the literature is defined by the data and the researcher’s interpretation of it.

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The Do’s and Don’ts

Make yourself familiar with the complexities and requirements of action research before conducting the study. This will help you in preparing the introduction to the dissertation. The first step is to write a winning proposal to establish your research problem and to decide on the approach and direction of the research. Problems in action research play a critical role in driving the research to a level equal or greater than existing literature. A good action research dissertation is data driven rather than being theory driven.

Selecting the action research questions is critical from the perspective of the researcher. These questions are important in the context of research as they identify the implications of such questions in the context of the real world.  Action research questions could emerge by conducting research in a setting where students have relationships, and when students ask what research questions should be explored to address and identify the social, political, and ethical dilemmas associated with asking such questions.

Similarly, students can conduct action research in external settings by identifying problems and developing relationships in order to undertake a comprehensive study. It is important to have an idea of primary research and secondary researchwhen writing an action based dissertation. The research methodology for action research is not specific as the methods are context bound. Moreover, the methods can be changed according to the nature of the problems that are present in the context. There are no unique methodological characteristics of action research.

The types of research strategies selected will depend on the dissertation topic and the nature of the action research undertaken by the students. The best approach is to identify these approaches at an earlier stage so they can be used to address the questions. Moreover, it is important for students to identify the data that needs to be explored in order to develop the questions. Typically, action research dissertation involves analysis of data in which patterns, insights, and new understandings are identified. The meaning of these patterns and insights are clearly explained in order to ensure that high levels of reliability and validity can be maintained. A key approach in action research dissertations should be to identify limitations and use them as an advantage. This provides the ability to produce knowledge that is based on ground realities while it can also be useful for local participants.



This article aims to help students to gain knowledge about action Research for dissertation – the do’s and the don’ts. It will help them to use a systematic approach towards writing action research dissertations.  Action research is an important approach towards resolving research problems and initiating a continuous process of reflection and learning for students. One of the strengths of action research is that it enables the researcher to directly participate in the research process. Moreover, the researchers are able to obtain knowledge that is based on ground realities. The process of writing an action research dissertation is different as compared to conventional research. Students are recommended to read as much as possible about action research before undertaking it since it can be a difficult process.

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