Linking Research to Action: A Simple Guide to Writing an Action Research Report

What Is Action Research, and Why Do We Do It?

Action research is any research into practice undertaken by those involved in that practice, with the primary goal of encouraging continued reflection and making improvement. It can be done in any professional field, including medicine, nursing, social work, psychology, and education. Action research is particularly popular in the field of education. When it comes to teaching, practitioners may be interested in trying out different teaching methods in the classroom, but are unsure of their effectiveness. Action research provides an opportunity to explore the effectiveness of a particular teaching practice, the development of a curriculum, or your students’ learning, hence making continual improvement possible. In other words, the use of an interactive action-and-research process enables practitioners to get an idea of what they and their learners really do inside of the classroom, not merely what they think they can do. By doing this, it is hoped that both the teaching and the learning occurring in the classroom can be better tailored to fit the learners’ needs.

You may be wondering how action research differs from traditional research. The term itself already suggests that it is concerned with both “action” and “research,” as well as the association between the two. Kurt Lewin (1890-1947), a famous psychologist who coined this term, believed that there was “no action without research; no research without action” (Marrow, 1969, p.163). It is certainly possible, and perhaps commonplace, for people to try to have one without the other, but the unique combination of the two is what distinguishes action research from most other forms of enquiry. Traditional research emphasizes the review of prior research, rigorous control of the research design, and generalizable and preferably statistically significant results, all of which help examine the theoretical significance of the issue. Action research, with its emphasis on the insider’s perspective and the practical significance of a current issue, may instead allow less representative sampling, looser procedures, and the presentation of raw data and statistically insignificant results.

What Should We Include in an Action Research Report?

The components put into an action research report largely coincide with the steps used in the action research process. This process usually starts with a question or an observation about a current problem. After identifying the problem area and narrowing it down to make it more manageable for research, the development process continues as you devise an action plan to investigate your question. This will involve gathering data and evidence to support your solution. Common data collection methods include observation of individual or group behavior, taking audio or video recordings, distributing questionnaires or surveys, conducting interviews, asking for peer observations and comments, taking field notes, writing journals, and studying the work samples of your own and your target participants. You may choose to use more than one of these data collection methods. After you have selected your method and are analyzing the data you have collected, you will also reflect upon your entire process of action research. You may have a better solution to your question now, due to the increase of your available evidence. You may also think about the steps you will try next, or decide that the practice needs to be observed again with modifications. If so, the whole action research process starts all over again.

In brief, action research is more like a cyclical process, with the reflection upon your action and research findings affecting changes in your practice, which may lead to extended questions and further action. This brings us back to the essential steps of action research: identifying the problem, devising an action plan, implementing the plan, and finally, observing and reflecting upon the process. Your action research report should comprise all of these essential steps. Feldman and Weiss (n.d.) summarized them as five structural elements, which do not have to be written in a particular order. Your report should:

  • Describe the context where the action research takes place. This could be, for example, the school in which you teach. Both features of the school and the population associated with it (e.g., students and parents) would be illustrated as well.
  • Contain a statement of your research focus. This would explain where your research questions come from, the problem you intend to investigate, and the goals you want to achieve. You may also mention prior research studies you have read that are related to your action research study.
  • Detail the method(s) used. This part includes the procedures you used to collect data, types of data in your report, and justification of your used strategies.
  • Highlight the research findings. This is the part in which you observe and reflect upon your practice. By analyzing the evidence you have gathered, you will come to understand whether the initial problem has been solved or not, and what research you have yet to accomplish.
  • Suggest implications. You may discuss how the findings of your research will affect your future practice, or explain any new research plans you have that have been inspired by this report’s action research.

The overall structure of your paper will actually look more or less the same as what we commonly see in traditional research papers.

What Else Do We Need to Pay Attention to?

We discussed the major differences between action research and traditional research in the beginning of this article. Due to the difference in the focus of an action research report, the language style used may not be the same as what we normally see or use in a standard research report. Although both kinds of research, both action and traditional, can be published in academic journals, action research may also be published and delivered in brief reports or on websites for a broader, non-academic audience. Instead of using the formal style of scientific research, you may find it more suitable to write in the first person and use a narrative style while documenting your details of the research process.

However, this does not forbid using an academic writing style, which undeniably enhances the credibility of a report. According to Johnson (2002), even though personal thoughts and observations are valued and recorded along the way, an action research report should not be written in a highly subjective manner. A personal, reflective writing style does not necessarily mean that descriptions are unfair or dishonest, but statements with value judgments, highly charged language, and emotional buzzwords are best avoided.

Furthermore, documenting every detail used in the process of research does not necessitate writing a lengthy report. The purpose of giving sufficient details is to let other practitioners trace your train of thought, learn from your examples, and possibly be able to duplicate your steps of research. This is why writing a clear report that does not bore or confuse your readers is essential.

Lastly, You May Ask, Why Do We Bother to Even Write an Action Research Report?

It sounds paradoxical that while practitioners tend to have a great deal of knowledge at their disposal, often they do not communicate their insights to others. Take education as an example: It is both regrettable and regressive if every teacher, no matter how professional he or she might be, only teaches in the way they were taught and fails to understand what their peer teachers know about their practice. Writing an action research report provides you with the chance to reflect upon your own practice, make substantiated claims linking research to action, and document action and ideas as they take place. The results can then be kept, both for the sake of your own future reference, and to also make the most of your insights through the act of sharing with your professional peers.

Feldman, A., & Weiss, T. (n.d.). Suggestions for writing the action research report . Retrieved from http://people.umass.edu/~afeldman/ARreadingmaterials/WritingARReport.html

Johnson, A. P. (2002). A short guide to action research . Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.

Marrow, A. J. (1969). The practical theorist: The life and work of Kurt Lewin . New York, NY: Basic Books.

Tiffany Ip is a lecturer at Hong Kong Baptist University. She gained a PhD in neurolinguistics after completing her Bachelor’s degree in psychology and linguistics. She strives to utilize her knowledge to translate brain research findings into practical classroom instruction.


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  • What Is Action Research? | Definition & Examples

What Is Action Research? | Definition & Examples

Published on January 27, 2023 by Tegan George . Revised on January 12, 2024.

Action research Cycle

Table of contents

Types of action research, action research models, examples of action research, action research vs. traditional research, advantages and disadvantages of action research, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about action research.

There are 2 common types of action research: participatory action research and practical action research.

  • Participatory action research emphasizes that participants should be members of the community being studied, empowering those directly affected by outcomes of said research. In this method, participants are effectively co-researchers, with their lived experiences considered formative to the research process.
  • Practical action research focuses more on how research is conducted and is designed to address and solve specific issues.

Both types of action research are more focused on increasing the capacity and ability of future practitioners than contributing to a theoretical body of knowledge.

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Action research is often reflected in 3 action research models: operational (sometimes called technical), collaboration, and critical reflection.

  • Operational (or technical) action research is usually visualized like a spiral following a series of steps, such as “planning → acting → observing → reflecting.”
  • Collaboration action research is more community-based, focused on building a network of similar individuals (e.g., college professors in a given geographic area) and compiling learnings from iterated feedback cycles.
  • Critical reflection action research serves to contextualize systemic processes that are already ongoing (e.g., working retroactively to analyze existing school systems by questioning why certain practices were put into place and developed the way they did).

Action research is often used in fields like education because of its iterative and flexible style.

After the information was collected, the students were asked where they thought ramps or other accessibility measures would be best utilized, and the suggestions were sent to school administrators. Example: Practical action research Science teachers at your city’s high school have been witnessing a year-over-year decline in standardized test scores in chemistry. In seeking the source of this issue, they studied how concepts are taught in depth, focusing on the methods, tools, and approaches used by each teacher.

Action research differs sharply from other types of research in that it seeks to produce actionable processes over the course of the research rather than contributing to existing knowledge or drawing conclusions from datasets. In this way, action research is formative , not summative , and is conducted in an ongoing, iterative way.

As such, action research is different in purpose, context, and significance and is a good fit for those seeking to implement systemic change.

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Action research comes with advantages and disadvantages.

  • Action research is highly adaptable , allowing researchers to mold their analysis to their individual needs and implement practical individual-level changes.
  • Action research provides an immediate and actionable path forward for solving entrenched issues, rather than suggesting complicated, longer-term solutions rooted in complex data.
  • Done correctly, action research can be very empowering , informing social change and allowing participants to effect that change in ways meaningful to their communities.


  • Due to their flexibility, action research studies are plagued by very limited generalizability  and are very difficult to replicate . They are often not considered theoretically rigorous due to the power the researcher holds in drawing conclusions.
  • Action research can be complicated to structure in an ethical manner . Participants may feel pressured to participate or to participate in a certain way.
  • Action research is at high risk for research biases such as selection bias , social desirability bias , or other types of cognitive biases .

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Normal distribution
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Research bias

  • Rosenthal effect
  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Selection bias
  • Negativity bias
  • Status quo bias

Action research is conducted in order to solve a particular issue immediately, while case studies are often conducted over a longer period of time and focus more on observing and analyzing a particular ongoing phenomenon.

Action research is focused on solving a problem or informing individual and community-based knowledge in a way that impacts teaching, learning, and other related processes. It is less focused on contributing theoretical input, instead producing actionable input.

Action research is particularly popular with educators as a form of systematic inquiry because it prioritizes reflection and bridges the gap between theory and practice. Educators are able to simultaneously investigate an issue as they solve it, and the method is very iterative and flexible.

A cycle of inquiry is another name for action research . It is usually visualized in a spiral shape following a series of steps, such as “planning → acting → observing → reflecting.”

Sources in this article

We strongly encourage students to use sources in their work. You can cite our article (APA Style) or take a deep dive into the articles below.

George, T. (2024, January 12). What Is Action Research? | Definition & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved April 17, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/methodology/action-research/
Cohen, L., Manion, L., & Morrison, K. (2017). Research methods in education (8th edition). Routledge.
Naughton, G. M. (2001).  Action research (1st edition). Routledge.

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writing action research or field report

Writing Action Research or Field Report

Apr 06, 2014

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Writing Action Research or Field Report. Introduction An Example Report APA Style The Title Organization Paragraphs Effective Transitions Strategies for Writing a Conclusion Peer Editing Individual Review Meetings Presentations. The Title.

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Presentation Transcript

Writing Action Research or Field Report • Introduction • An Example Report • APA Style • The Title • Organization • Paragraphs • Effective Transitions • Strategies for Writing a Conclusion • Peer Editing • Individual Review Meetings • Presentations

The Title • Use a subtitle to clarify what the report is about. • Use a reasonably catchy title

An Example Report • Follow the College style requirements (paper size, margin, cover sheets). • Table of contents • Abstract • Chapter 1: Introduction (purpose, importance, assumptions, definitions, research questions) • Chapter 2: Review of the Literature • Chapter 3: Methods (subjects, setting, instrument, data collection procedures) • Chapter 4: Result (include graphs or tables) • Chapter 5: Discussion (including conclusion, recommendation, action plan) • References • Appendices

Organization The key to your report is not brilliance or even inspiration, but organization. • Use of headings and subheadings • Use of outline

The Paragraph • Unity: The entire paragraph should concern itself with a single focus. If it begins with a certain point of discussion, it should not end with another or wander within different ideas. • Coherence: Create logical or verbal bridges in your paragraphs to be coherent. For example, key words or synonymous words can be repeated in several sentences. • A Topic Sentence: Put your topic sentence near the beginning of the paragraph. • Adequate Development: It usually takes more than 1,2,or 3 sentences to have a fully developed paragraph. • Do not use future tense in Ch. 1 verbs as you did with the proposal. Use past tense in data gathering section.

Effective Transitions • Does your report have a nice flow ( continuity, or progression)? • Use a lead-in sentence to introduce discussion of a new concept . • The end of a paragraph can set up a clear connection to the next paragraph. • One way to create a transition is to repeat a key word or phrase from the preceding paragraph. • Use these transitional words to link complementary ideas : again, in addition, at the same time, in the same way, by the same token, similarly, likewise, hence, as a result, furthermore, moreover, secondly. To link conflicting ideas, use these words: in reality, in truth, on the other hand, on the contrary, nonetheless, however, in contrast.

The Conclusion • Propose a course of action, possible approaches or solutions to the issue raised. • Challenge the reader: Address ideas from a fresh perspective in order to encourage the reader to continue thinking about the topic . • Looking to the future: Raise questions for future study. • Describing the limitations of your study. • Save a provocative or exciting insight or quotation for the conclusion. • Echoing the introduction: Include something from the introduction (e.g. a detail, image, scenario, or example) to bring the report full cycle.

Presentation • Present your field or action research report to the rest of class • You are encouraged to use the Powerpoint to make your presentation • It is more of a celebration than an oral defense. GOOD LUCK !

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Action research is a very useful tool, a potent vehicle to address immediate problems or improve practices, especially in the workplace. It is concerned with local problem and is conducted in a local setting. It is situation-specific, realistic, reflective, evaluative, and action-oriented in nature. In line with RA 9155, the DepEd in the Philippines has to enable policies and mechanisms from which the delivery of quality basic education can continuously improve. Chap 1 of this Act states that DepEd is mandated to “undertake national educational research and studies” from which it can become part of the basis for necessary reforms and policy inputs. The DepEd provides provided the guidelines on the utilization of the BERF for the conduct of education research at all levels nationwide, which shall go through the standard process of proposal preparation, submission, evaluation, approval, implementation, and submission of research findings. It was also stated that the BERF is open to external research institutions ( with legal capacity to enter into contract, free from bankruptcy, with good record in paying taxes). Thus , the conduct of action research in the elementary and secondary schools (even in the higher education institutions as ordered by the Commission on Higher Education) is fully supported by the Philippine government.

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UNCW Names New Watson College Dean

Dr. Tracy Linderholm will assume her new role as the college’s chief academic and administrative officer on June 24, 2024.

Man in military uniform sitting at a desk smiling

New! Degree in Workforce Learning & Development

WCE introduces a Bachelor of Science in Workforce Learning & Development with classes starting in fall 2024. The program is designed for military personnel and mid-career professionals in the skilled trades. Offered 100% online.


A place that feels like home.


Future Teachers

Instructional technology, higher education, doctoral students, extensive, real-world experiences, get started, student engagement, education learning community.

Take you university experience to the next level! Join 20-25 other first-year pre-education majors in our Education Learning Community. As a member of the ELC residential community, you'll make lifelong friendships and get a jump start in your education classes and enrichment experiences.

Student Organizations

UNCW offers more than 250 student organizations, and WCE is home to the Watson Student Leaders and UNCW chapters of Kappa Delta Pi and the Student North Carolina Association of Educators. Visit WCE Student Engagement to learn more!

International Study and Research Opportunities

Expand your horizons and develop a global perspective! WCE students can work and study in schools around the world. Research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students are also offered.

Seahawk Esports Club

Join UNCW's growing esports club! UNCW introduced esports in 2019 to bring together a community to learn, play and teach electronic sports. In just two years, the club has grown from four students in the WCE's instructional technology program to more than 500 members. The club fields nationally competitive teams, hosts campus and community events, and establishes connection to the broader esport community.

Class in kayaks on the river

Appreciative Inquiry Facilitator Training

UNCW faculty, staff and doctoral students: Hone your leadership skills and learn to facilitate positive change in this unique training offered in partnership with the Center for Appreciative Inquiry on May 20-23, 2024 at the Watson College of Education

Cherry blossom tree on UNCW campus

Watson Preview Day

This is a Saturday morning event where ANYONE interested in learning about the programs of study offered within the Watson College of Education should attend. The event begins with a welcome from the dean’s office, followed by a Faculty and Staff presentation. We will have a student panel discussion (Always the most popular) and end the event with open exploration of the building. During this time the Ed Lab and Curriculum Materials Center will be offering interactive breakouts with arts/crafts/technology and more! Please email Dean Heath with questions [email protected]

Watson Student Leaders

Watson Social Updraft

Did you know hawks use updrafts to work more efficiently and climb higher on less energy? Now you can use Watson’s Social Updraft hour to soar higher too! Fly-by our second-floor lounge between classes and take a moment to connect. For more information, contact Grace Burmester at [email protected].

Watson Students

UNCW News & Events


Take a Virtual Tour

Contact the watson college.

Dean’s Office

Phone: (910) 962-3192 Fax: (910) 962-4081

[email protected]

601 S. College Road Wilmington, NC 28403

Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Summer hours:

Monday - Thursday, 7:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

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Centre for Reproductive Health

Researchers from the CRH participate in Endometriosis Action Month

March was Endometriosis Action Month and members of the Horne/ EXPPECT lab carried out a stellar job of raising awareness of their important endometriosis research and this common yet debilitating women’s health condition.

Picture of the EXPPECT Edinburgh team

There was a particular focus on the trials into non-hormonal treatments for endometriosis; in particular, how dichloroacetate (DCA) can help manage endometriosis associated pain. If successful, dichloroacetate could be the first ever non-hormonal and non-surgical treatment for endometriosis – and the first new treatment in 40 years.

There was also a reflection on past achievements as CRH researchers look to their future research goals with the key aim of improving treatment options and health outcomes for those who suffer from endometriosis.

Some examples of impactful outreach include:

Professor Andrew Horne

Economist Article

In the lead up to Endometriosis Action Month, Professor Andrew Horne contributed expert commentary to this article in The Economist (February 2024) discussing the breakthrough towards non-hormonal treatment for endometriosis and the EPiC 2 trial (co-led by Lucy Whitaker).

Read the Economist article

Wellbeing of Women

On International Women’s Day (08.04.24), Wellbeing of Women released a film looking back at achievements as a charity over 60 years and the women’s health research it supports, including Dr Lucy Whitaker’s work.

Watch the YouTube video

Wellbeing of Women continues to use and share footage and interviews of our researchers (including Lucy) in the CRH lab, including Lucy, across all their social platforms and website. The team have acknowledged the many positive comments the posts receive and how accessible and educational the content is, helping to smash the stigma of bleeding problems associated with conditions such as endometriosis.

ITN Business 'The Future we Deserve'

A crew from ITN visited our lab to learn more about research into Endometriosis and Heavy Menstrual Bleeding, how it affects women and society, and why reproductive health research is so important.

Watch the full programme on the ITN website

(aired on International Women's Day, 08.04.24)

Dr Lucy Whitaker presented the endometriosis research section of this programme and we thank the endometriosis case study, Candice McKenzie, for speaking so honestly about her lived experience of endometriosis, which was included in the film.

Expert commentary from Professor Horne was included in this fascinating BBC Food article which discusses the impact of diet on endometriosis symptoms (08.03.24).

Read the BBC Food article

BBC Radio Scotland

Dr Lucy Whitaker was interviewed by Kaye Adams on BBC Radio Scotland (12.03.23).  She spoke eloquently about the need for a reliable biomarker to improve endometriosis diagnosis and treatment.

Lucy Whitaker standing beside her poster presentation

Lucy was also featured by CLUE’s Science Team within an endometriosis focus thread on their social platforms, receiving a great deal of traction. She explained the symptoms of endometriosis and was interviewed about her research progress and the EPiC2 clinical trial. This randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled feasibility trial to evaluate dichloroacetate in the management of endometriosis-associated pain will have 100 participants, and recruitment begins this summer.

EPiC2 builds on the findings of previous CRH trials which discovered that people with endometriosis had higher levels of lactate in their pelvises than those who did not have the condition and that dichloroacetate (DCA) could potentially treat endometriosis pain.

Read about the EPiC2 clinical trial

CLUE is the only female-founded, female-led trackers app. It is passionate about technology leading the way to more inclusive research, education and policy and aims to provide trustworthy information, data driven tools and support for everyone with a menstrual cycle.

Presentation at the Scottish Government

Frankie Hearn-Yeates (PhD student) and Ann Doust (Research Portfolio Manager), both members of the Horne/ EXPPECT lab within the CRH, presented at the Scottish Government on 14.03.24 as part of an endometriosis awareness raising event.

Frankie gave an overview of her PhD project and shared her ongoing work on her science-art engagement project ‘The Wandering Womb’ and Ann presented on a number of the EXPPECT clinical trials. The staff who attended were impressed, offering positive feedback.

Our researchers are grateful to both Wellbeing of Women and the Scottish Government, mentioned above, for their generous funding which allows the pioneering CRH research into endometriosis to continue.

Frankie Hearn-Yeates (PhD student) delivers a presentation in a lecture hall.


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  21. PPT Watson College of Education

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  23. Researchers from the CRH participate in Endometriosis Action Month

    Our researchers are grateful to both Wellbeing of Women and the Scottish Government, mentioned above, for their generous funding which allows the pioneering CRH research into endometriosis to continue. Frankie Hearn-Yeates (PhD student) delivers her presentation. March was Endometriosis Action Month and members of the Horne/ EXPPECT lab carried ...


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