Some researchers believe that action research is a research method, but in my opinion it is better understood as a methodology. In action research, the researcher works in close collaboration with a group of people to improve a situation in a particular setting. The researcher does not ‘do’ research ‘on’ people, but instead works with them, acting as a facilitator. Therefore, good group management skills and an understanding of group dynamics are important skills for the researcher to acquire. This type of research is popular in areas such as organisational management, community development, education and agriculture. Action research begins with a process of communication and agreement between people who want to change something together.
Obviously, not all people within an organisation will be willing to become co-researchers, so action research tends to take place with a small group of dedicated people who are open to new ideas and willing to step back and reflect on these ideas. The group then moves through four stages of planning, acting, observing and reflecting. This process may happen several times before everyone is happy that the changes have been implemented in the best possible way. In action research various types of research method may be used, for example: the diagnosing and evaluating stage questionnaires, interviews and focus groups may be used to gauge opinion on the proposed changes. Ethnography
Ethnography has its roots in anthropology and was a popular form of inquiry at the turn of the century when anthropologists travelled the world in search of remote tribes. The emphasis in ethnography is on describing and interpreting cultural behaviour. Ethnographers immerse themselves in the lives and culture of the group being studied, often living with that group for months on end. These researchers participate in a groups’ activities whilst observing its behaviour, taking notes, conducting interviews, analysing, reflecting and writing reports – this may be called fieldwork or participant observation. Ethnographers highlight the importance of the written text because this is how they portray the culture they are studying. Feminist research
There is some argument about whether feminist inquiry should be considered a methodology or epistemology, but in my opinion it can be both. (As we have seen, methodology is the philosophy or the general principle which will guide your research. Epistemology, on the other hand, is the study of the nature of knowledge and justification. It looks at from where knowledge has come and how we know what we know.) Feminist researchers argue that for too long the lives and experiences of women have been ignored or misrepresented. Often, in the past, research was conducted on male ‘subjects’ and the results generalised to the whole population. Feminist researchers critique both the research topics and the methods used; especially those which emphasise objective, scientific ‘truth’.With its emphasis on participative, qualitative inquiry, feminist research has provided a valuable alternative framework for researchers who have felt uncomfortable with treating people as research ‘objects’. Grounded theory
Grounded theory is a methodology which was first laid out in 1967 by two researchers named Glaser and Strauss. It tends to be a popular form of inquiry in the areas of education and health research. The emphasis in this methodology is on the generation of theory which is grounded in the data – this means that it has emerged from the data. This is different from other types of research which might seek to test a hypothesis that has been formulated by the researcher. In grounded theory, methods such as focus groups and interviews tend to be the preferred data collection method, along with a comprehensive literature review which takes place throughout the data collection process. This literature review helps to explain emerging results. In grounded theory studies the number of people to be interviewed is not specified at the beginning of the research. This is because the researcher, at the outset, is unsure of where the research will take her. Instead, she continues with the data collection until ‘saturation’ point is reached, that is, no new information is being provided. Grounded theory is therefore flexible and enables new issues to emerge that the researcher may not have thought about previously.