4.2 Participatory action research

Participatory action research (PAR) means involving stakeholders in the management and/or implementation of a research project which applies theories or methods to an actual problem. Action research is an approach to research that can be used where results are seen as an important outcome of research, as well as knowledge. Put simply, action researchers are interested in testing their theories and methods by applying them to solving actual problems. Action research is therefore particularly attractive to practitioners, for whom it can be a way of refining their knowledge as a result of their engagement with their practice. Participatory action research is action research where the researcher(s) involve other stakeholders in managing and/or implementing the researching process. An example of this might include occasions where agricultural researchers involve farmers in planning field trials of new crops or techniques, or where the researchers begin by finding out what it is that farmers are interested in researching and then help them to do it.

This section has looked at participatory ways of doing research, based on essentially qualitative approaches. Participation is important in technology innovation because of a shift in ethos from doing research on technology to one of doing research with people using technology. It should be clear that there are many considerations when adopting a participatory approach. Perhaps the essential lesson is the importance of maintaining a critical awareness that other participants in the processes being researched may have a very different idea of what is happening, why it is happening and whether it is in their interest or not. Everyone has their own agenda and the agendas of research subjects are as important to them as the objectives of researchers are to themselves. The great strength of participatory methods is that they open this up for scrutiny, and allow researchers and others to find areas and activities where their agendas match and to negotiate in areas where they do not.

4.1 Participant observation

5 Policy research including narrative policy analysis