Occasional pieces in AR (Action Research)

Occasional pieces in AR — Introduction

I was sent a link to this page by one of my students currently conducting research. I have many on-going discussions about qualitative vs quantitative research, and my student thought this discussion was something in which I might have an interest. Obviously–I do!

First, let me say, I find it interesting that we even have a struggle between “quant” and “qual” or between “hard sciences” and the “soft sciences.” It certainly strikes me as arrogance that one group of academics feel they can claim to be “true researchers” and thus limit the contributions of others through a claim of “lack of rigor.” I have for years argued that different disciplines have different types of rigor. The rigor a chemist requires is different from that of an electrical engineer. The rigor required to conduct solid research in History is different from that of Hebrew Literature. In the words of Rodney King “Can’t we all just get along?”

Now, moving on to the website referenced: This posits another interested direction for research–that of activist. Creswell, in his text on “Research Design” refers to for different “Knowledge Claims” that we have for research, and argues that we fit in one of 4 categories. One of those categories includes “Activist.” Of course, this makes the hair on the back of many necks stand straight up. How can one be “objective” if one has as one’s goal effecting change?

The need to effect change forms an explicit assumption of one’s research. Perhaps the greatest difference here is that the assumption is explicit, and often embedded in the “problem statement.” For instance, consider this problem statement/research question: “Heroin use remains a significant killer on the streets of major cities. This research seeks to identify the many ways people die from heroin use and propose policies that would reduce the number of deaths of our fellow citizens.”

Not very objective–or is it? Certainly it is “activist” in it’s role. Embedded in this statement is an assumption (hopefuly supported in a lit review) that heroin is a killer. Also embedded is that the “solution” must involve government intervention, since it seeks “policies” to effect change.

My question for you all, dear students, is this: Can one be objective, and be an activist researcher (or an “action researcher?”)

Please, feel free to share your comments and ideas on this.

The Professors