Action-Oriented Research: Models and Methods

By Small, Stephen A. | Journal of Marriage and Family, November 1995 | Go to article overview

Action-Oriented Research: Models and Methods


Small, Stephen A., Journal of Marriage and Family


In recent years there has been a growing interest in research approaches that can better inform policy and practice and lead to social action. This article describes four models of action-oriented research: action, participatory, empowerment, and feminist research. The historical roots, epistemological assumptions, agendas, and methodological strategies of each are discussed. Common features and distinguishing characteristics are examined. The article concludes by discussing implications derived from action-oriented research for family researchers and other social scientists interested in making their work more relevant to practice, policy, and social action.

In recent years there has been a growing interest in research approaches that can better inform policy and practice and lead to social action. This trend has occurred in response to such factors as a growing frustration among practitioners and policy makers with the lack of relevance of traditional research findings and an increasing desire among many social scientists to conduct research that has greater social relevance. A number of research approaches from different social science traditions have evolved independently in response to common frustrations with the inability of traditional positivistic social science methods to inform questions of practice or social action and in response to the emergence of postpositivist epistemological paradigms. While these approaches have developed many similar principles of inquiry, the lack of contact among them has delayed recognition of their common themes.

There are a number of contemporary research approaches that are directly concerned with informing practice and social change. Family scholars are probably most familiar with feminist methods (e.g., Allen & Baber, 1992; Reinharz, 1992; Thompson, 1992). Other "action-oriented" models include action research, empowerment research, and participatory research. These research approaches advocate remarkably similar agendas and share a core of epistemological assumptions and methodological strategies.

This article describes these four action-oriented forms of research and examines the epistemological assumptions, moral/ethical values, and methodological strategies that characterize each of them. The article focuses on commonalties among the four approaches, including their implications for family researchers. Examination of the characteristics that distinguish them from conventional, social science research is also included. In this article, the term conventional social science research refers to the positivistic scientific paradigm that has dominated the social sciences for the past century. Drawing on methods and logic first used in the physical sciences, this approach subsumes notions of causality, objectivity, and quantification with the goal of predicting and controlling human behavior (Prus, 1992).

FOUR MODELS OF ACTION-ORIENTED RESEARCH

What follows is an examination of the distinguishing characteristics of each of four action-oriented research traditions: action research, participatory research, empowerment research, and feminist research. Each approach is introduced by a discussion of its historical origins. This is followed by an examination of three aspects germane to any research model: (a) agenda (What are the primary goals of the research? Which research questions are most worth asking? Who are the principal beneficiaries of the research findings?); (b) epistemology (What forms of knowledge are considered scientific? What role do values and ethics play in the research enterprise? Can social science be objective?); and (c) methodology (What are the most commonly used data collection strategies? How are they determined? What role do research subjects and other nonresearchers play in the research process?). These three dimensions of the research process have been selected for heuristic purposes, but they are not mutually exclusive. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Action-Oriented Research: Models and Methods
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.