On the potential value and limitations of Participatory Action Research

PAR is valued for social, political and methodological purposes –to empower individuals and the population concerned, to ensure the research is framed in their terms, to enhance its value to the community being researched, to provide development opportunities within a marginalised population, and to ensure that the study reflects the lived experience and expertise of those in the community it attempts to explore.
However, there can also be a tension between a desire to achieve meaningful and genuine participation and the demands this places on the resources of all involved. The level of resources required should be carefully considered. It is also important to acknowledge that PAR can be selective or partial. For example, if the community involved did not have a say in the final published findings but have had input throughout the data collection process, is this really ‘participatory action research’ (Brydon-Miller etal., 2011)? If only a handful of those involved in earlier stages attend the later workshops outlining the findings, despite the research teams’ best efforts, how meaningful can the participation of the ‘community’ be claimed to be (Russo, 2012)?

- Ritchie, et al, Qualitative Research Practice: A Guide for Social Science Students and Researchers.