Social Change/Participatory Action Research




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I had never  heard of this type of research, Participatory Action Research ( PAR), but I actually felt like it seemed to focus on community residents having more of an involvement in the research. The participants are knowledgeable in the issues because of discussions and interactions and those who will be involved in the change should take part in the research              ( Schneider, Gruman & Coutts, 2012). According to the article on Psychology and Social Change, I think it’s great that communities which may have been taken advantage of  could receive research to assisting in helping to find solutions to groups who have been overlooked ( Brydon-Miller, 1997).  Positive social change should be the goal in most research. I like the idea where participants  integrate their information, according to their strengths. Sometimes, what has been proven through research to work in some areas may not be what works everywhere and I feel like this is why  this research is interesting to me. I also believe that  trust and commitment are important in research. It reminds me of a group project  I participated in two semesters ago where each participant is held responsible for a piece  and everyone needs to be “on board” for the project to come out successfully. I did a project in health psychology and commitment to being on-line when everyone else was and trusting that each person would have the promised piece on the due date was so important. We had a “leader” who was wonderful in integrating every piece so that it sounded like it was coming from one person and we would all be in agreement at every step from the topic, to the general information, to making sure that the references were all valid for this particular project. It actually was sort of fun to stay so connected for those three weeks, especially since it was an on-line class and we never spoke face-to-face. I also feel like this type of research would invigorate other community members to want to get involved to make a difference.

I think that this could almost be  a class that the undergraduates take to find solutions to problems in their communities, with the psychologist being the “leader.” . I definitely liked the example from East Lansing, Michigan where they were working with the homeless who resided in the community. This research is integrating the homeless into the minds of the community and assisting them with attention so that they can get out of this scenerio. Raising money and giving media attention along with  those who had organized meetings is such an important step in this area. Also, in Chicago, Illinois, they are taking great steps to help African Americans in areas of help such  as interviews and helping with communication skills which will hopefully allow them the same job opportunities.

Sometimes, in order to bring about change, members of the community have to feel like a part of something. Have you ever been approached  by someone giving you information on promoting health, but you dismissed them, saying that you just “don’t have a minute to listen” . when actually you really do. You know that it’s important and eating all day at your desk has definitely added some inches to your stomach and less time to feel like going to exercise. Some companies are really focusing on health and allowing employees to exercise for 30 minutes during their work day and that is considered “work” so that exercise can be integrated into a workday. This type of research is becoming more and more important to help the community and empower the individual! I hope I see more of this research in my own community!



Brydon-Miller, M. (1997), Participatory Action Research: Psychology and Social Change. Journal of Social Issues, 53: 657–666. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1997.tb02454.x

Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., and Coutts, L. M. (Eds.) (2012). Applied Social Psychology: Understanding and Addressing Social and Practical Problems (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


1 comment

  1. Participatory action research provides communities the opportunity for a hands on approach to overcoming problems. PAR pulls insight from the people closest to the issue at hand which allows for a closer perspective to the problem as well as its potential solutions (Pennsylvania State University, 2014). You mention several good examples of how participatory research can benefit a struggling community such as the homeless or African Americans. Gosin, Dustman, Drapeau, and Harthun (2003) evaluated the effects of participatory action research in designing and implementing a drug prevention program for adolescents. This stemmed from the growing need to devise a program that considered both the expert knowledge and the communities experience (Bosworth, 1998). The methodology for this type of research involved coordinating with the expert researchers who first systematically devised the process to create lessons that focused on prevention (Gosin et al., 2003). The role of researchers within participatory research therefore, is to provide scientific knowledge and methods needed to establish the foundation of the intervention (Bosworth, 1998; Gosin et al, 2003).

    Following the design of the program, the research team brought in teachers and students for modifications, opinions and suggestions, and the actual production of lesson videos (Gosin et al., 2003). By using the methods of participatory action research, researchers were able to gain better insight into what would actually work for the students and teachers (Gosin et al., 2003). This reveals that although limitations exist within the looser scientific methodology of PAR, the community can still greatly benefit in an efficient manner by simply incorporating the opinions of individuals in the target population with expert knowledge (Gosin et al., 2003).

    I definitely agree with you that empowering the individual and the overall community is essential in promoting change. Gosin et al. (2003) made the effort to use the community’s teachers and students to the fullest in order to create a program that would be effective and beneficial for the community. Your example of the work strategy and exercise is another excellent example of steps being taken to promote physical fitness and discourage obesity by using the opinions of employers and employees. These interventions based on the combination of empirical research and participatory action research have the capability to make a significant impact and change within the community.


    Bosworth, K. (1998). Assessment of drug abuse prevention curricula developed at the local level. Journal of Drug Education, 28, 307-325. doi:10.2190/TBCC-7JHK-MFAV-BT12.

    Gosin, M., Dustman, P., Drapeau, A., & Harthun, M. (2003). Participatory action research: Creating an effective prevention curriculum for adolescents in the Southwestern US. Health Education Research, 18, 363-379. doi:10.1093/her/cyf026.

    Pennsylvania State University. (2014). Social Change/Participatory Research. [Online Lecture]. Retrieved from

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