What Is Participatory Action Research (PAR)?

PAR is an action-oriented way of doing research towards a social transformation of the society, which includes the radical engagement of the community itself in defining the research goals and driving as well as owning the research process.

PAR puts emphasis on communal inquiry and action grounded in experience and the social context of a people. Both the community and co-researchers are thus engaged in a creative movement of interaction geared towards participation (democracy), action (experience and history), and research (critical thinking and knowledge creation).

PAR seeks to understand and improve the world by changing it. Its method is directly opposed to Galileo’s mathematization of the world, his so-called scientific world where the real properties of things were those things that are measurable and quantifiable.

In PAR, research is a collective, self-reflective inquiry that researchers and participants undertake, so they can understand and improve upon the practices in which they participate and the situations in which they find themselves. The reflective process is directly linked to action, influenced by an understanding of history, culture, and local context and embedded in social relationships. PAR aims to redefine democracy as power returning to the people rather than being lodged in the hands of the ruling elite. This inevitably leads to challenging the status quo and confronting existing unjust structures.

The process of PAR is empowering the people and leading them into having increased control over their lives. Unlike conventional research, action in PAR is achieved through a reflective cycle, whereby participants collect and analyses data, then determine what action should follow. The resultant action is then further researched and an interactive reflective cycle perpetuates data collection, reflection, and action. The dynamic nature of PAR ensures that data and information are not removed from their contexts as it often happens in conventional methods of research.