3 Basic Steps to Begin Your Participatory Action-Research Project[1] by Emily Wolk


I have listed three basic steps or phases to help you begin your own participatory action-research project.[2] 

Phase One - Whats the problem or challenge?

During this phase of the project, the participants begin to identify the problem or challenge that the group might want to address.  In other words, what does the group want to do?

            The group might consider asking the following questions:

      What is the challenge or problem?

      How do you know that it is a problem?

      How do you feel about the challenge or problem?

      Why does the problem exist?

      What are the consequences of the problem?

      What would you like to happen?

      What do we need to learn to better understand the problem or a possible solution?

      What resources do we have already (especially our own) that could help us understand the problem or challenge? 

      What other resources or sources of information might we need?

Phase Two - Investigate.

During this second phase, participants investigate and dig deeper into the problem or challenge at hand.  They devote time collecting data about their particular problem or needs.  Questions to consider:

      What questions do we have?  What else do we need to know?


      How can we find out more?  What methods should we consider to help us find out more?

      Are there any risks?  What are they?

      What skills do we need?

      What are our next steps based on our new information?

Phase Three - Take action.

During this third phase, participants take action deciding what to do and carrying it out.  Most important is what happens following this third phase so I will be direct.  Remember, that whatever the action is and whatever the outcome of the action, the group must reflect carefully on the process and the outcome itself.  After this third phase, the steps repeat beginning again with Phase One.  

[1] Smith, S., Willms, D., & Johnson, N.  (Eds.).  (1997).  Nurtured by knowledge:  Learning to do participatory action-research.  New York:  Apex Press.


[2] During each of these phases it is essential that 4 elements be in place.  They are:  reflection (reflect constantly), dialogue (with group members and others), voice (the issues and listen to the voices of the group members and others), and action (take action).