Qualitative research and action research: What’s the difference?

Qualitative research and action research may seem similar at first glance, but there are some key differences between the two methods. In this article, we’ll take a look at both qualitative research and action research, to help you understand how they differ from one another and when to use each method. Let’s get started!

What is qualitative research?

The term qualitative is used to refer to any type of research in which non-quantifiable data are collected. Researchers can learn a lot about human behaviour by collecting qualitative data. Examples include interviews, observations, focus groups, content analysis, diaries and written narratives. Qualitative research is generally more exploratory in nature and focuses on an individual or small group of individuals.

Because qualitative research uses open-ended questions that cannot be answered with yes or no, it is often time-consuming and labour-intensive for researchers and requires a high degree of skill. It also provides insights into what participants think and feel about various topics being studied, as well as their attitudes towards specific issues.

For example, if someone is studying the topic of domestic violence and he wanted to know what kind of views people had about its causes, he might conduct an interview and ask the participant if he thinks society tolerates violence against women. These types of perspectives wouldn’t come out through quantitative research like surveys, which just offer a binary choice (e.g., agree/disagree).

Qualitative research Design Methods

Most qualitative methods involve one-on-one interviews, focus groups, discussion forums or observations.

Each of these may provide useful information on its own; however, they can be even more powerful when combined to give a broader picture of how participants behave in a variety of situations. For example, you might conduct qualitative interviews with middle school students regarding their perception of bullying at school. You would then conduct focus group interviews with teachers who work at that same school. Finally, you would observe classes to see how the kids interact with one another during class time. These three different approaches could paint a very clear picture of how bullying plays out in this environment and allow educators to better understand where changes need to be made.

Advantages of qualitative research

Qualitative design is good for obtaining in-depth descriptions of a specific area of interest. For example, if you wanted to know what parents felt about a new after-school program that was being developed by your local council, you might interview 5 different parents to get an understanding of their views on why they think it should be implemented, or how they think it should work.

Another strength of the qualitative method is that, unlike quantitative methods, it allows you to really delve into your participants’ emotions. This is a really important factor to consider, especially when the research is focused on people who are dealing with emotional distress. This is why qualitative research has been so popular in health-related studies.

Disadvantages of Qualitative Research

The main drawback of the qualitative design is that it can be time-consuming, with researchers often needing to conduct multiple interviews in order to get a broad enough picture. You also have less control over your participants, which can limit your ability to obtain accurate or reliable data. Because you’re getting their raw opinions and perceptions, there’s always a chance that they could have been influenced by outside sources or been incorrect when they provided information during an interview.

What is action research?

Action research is a method of inquiry that enables researchers to explore their own questions, solve problems, and seek solutions in partnership with people in communities, organizations, or society. Action research can be used at all levels of education from early childhood through higher education. In an academic context, it typically refers to an interactive process between educators and community members with the goal of achieving educational goals together.

At its core, action research is about doing educational work together with others for mutual benefit. It’s not just about asking questions and gathering data; it’s also about intervening in order to make things better. In this sense, the most important aspect of action research is that the person who starts an action research project is not solely invested in doing science but rather wants to make something happen–to have some effect on his or her world. Action researchers want to know how they are affecting change and what changes are happening as a result of their intervention.

Qualitative research and action research
Action Research Methods

The methods used by action researchers may vary according to the purpose of the study. For example, if you’re looking at how instruction affects students’ math skills over time, then you might collect data like grades, test scores, how much students talk about math outside of school (e.g., during recess), or whether teachers report seeing changes in student understanding over time.

Other action research methods include participatory evaluation which is about involving community stakeholders in every step of the evaluation process-from identifying indicators for success before the project begins establishing mechanisms for monitoring progress throughout implementation. Participatory evaluation can include workshops, surveys, focus groups, interviews, and observations.

These types of evaluations allow program developers to identify strengths while they are still developing so that adjustments can be made along the way. There are many other ways of using action research methods-the key is to figure out what type of data will help address your questions or design the problem solution you are working towards!

Advanatages of Action Reserach

Action research is particularly useful when you’re trying to solve a problem that has a large impact or to answer questions that aren’t well-researched. In those cases, it can be difficult or impossible to rely solely on evidence from past programs because there is not enough information or it doesn’t exist at all.

Another benefit of action research is that it helps you develop stronger relationships with partners because you work together to achieve shared goals. Also, action research encourages creativity and innovation because no one has all the answers or knows what will work best in advance. You need to ask a lot of questions and try different approaches until something works.

Disadvantages of Action Research

One of the key limitations of action research is that it takes a lot of time and effort. It requires patience, dedication, and commitment. Another potential limitation is that action research does not always have a definitive endpoint. Researchers are often exploring questions that are never fully answered or solutions that are continually evolving. As a result, it is not always clear how to define the point at which an action research project is complete.

The differences between qualitative and action research

One way that qualitative researchers differ from action researchers is that qualitative researchers are looking for explanations about individual actions, while action researchers are looking for explanations about collective actions taken by groups. For example, if a researcher wanted to understand why some people volunteer at their local animal shelter and others do not, they might ask them questions about why they do or don’t want to volunteer.

The researcher would be trying to find out what motivated each person individually in order to help them make decisions about their own volunteering habits. An action researcher, on the other hand, would probably focus on gathering information about how an individual can influence others to become more active volunteers themselves.

Another key difference is that qualitative research tends to have a predetermined time limit, whereas action research usually has no deadlines.

Qualitative researchers also typically keep detailed records of the data they collect so it will be easy to re-examine it at a later date. Action researchers, on the other hand, often keep brief notes because they need to act quickly in order to affect change. Finally, qualitative research is focused on understanding events and trends as they happen whereas action research tries to create change through well-researched plans of action.

Final Remarks

Both action and qualitative research can be used to provide valuable information about a given topic. However, they each have their own distinct methods of data collection that require a certain type of researcher to complete. Qualitative researchers are more concerned with understanding why things happen while action researchers are more focused on what happens.

Action research is less descriptive and focuses on providing practical solutions for the problem it seeks to address. Ultimately, the choice between qualitative and action research should depend on the question being asked, but there are a number of factors to consider when deciding which one might be better suited for your needs. If you need detailed descriptions or interpretations of situations then action research would likely be best; if you want to understand what causes events or behaviours then qualitative research might serve you best.

Author: Kate B

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