Conducting Research:
A Proposal for Action
Dr. Marina Stock McIsaac
Arizona State University
Prepared for workshop at
Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages
Kaohsiung, Taiwan
June 11, 2008
• Communities of practice
• Computer Supported Collaborative
Learning (CSCL, Collis)
• Social Network Knowledge
Construction (SNKC, Dawley)
• Formal vs nonformal learning
Action Research
• is a process in which participants examine
their own educational practice systematically
and carefully,
• uses techniques of research in order to
improve a teacher’s own practice.
• In most of its forms it requires investigator
• is usually qualitative in design.
Action Research
• Includes research methodologies which look
for action (or change) and research (or
understanding) at the same time. In most of
its forms it does this by
• using a cyclic or spiral process which alternates
between action and critical reflection and
• refining methods, data and interpretation in the light of
the understanding developed in the earlier cycles.
Dick, Bob (1999) What is action research? Available on line at
Action Research Process
• An emerging process which takes
shape as understanding increases;
• A repetitive process which leads
towards a better understanding of what
From Martin Ryder University of
Colorado at Denver School of
Action Research Cycle
1. Think about the problem
2. What is the question you want to answer?
3. Plan ways to get the answers - involve
questioners, those questioned
4. Do fieldwork to get answers and improve your
understanding of the problem
5. From the answers generate an imaginative
idea of what to do to change and improve
6. New actions. put ideas into practice (stop,
reflect, is question answered, if no repeat)
The cycle
From: Yoland Wadsworth *What is Participatory Action
Research? November 1998
Some applied research questions
Why are students doing poorly?
How can I make this more interesting?
How can I teach this more effectively?
What would help this lesson?
What class management systems would help?
Review the cycle again
From: Yoland Wadsworth *What is Participatory Action
Research? November 1998
• Choose the correct method to answer your
• Do you seek
– quantitative, measurable, mathematical, answers?
– qualitative answers to questions governing human
• Action Research is a process with diverse
– Quantitative
• Experimental control
• Manipulation of variables
– Qualitative
• Participant observation
• In-depth interviews
• Content analysis
– Mixed methods
• Most Action Research is primarily qualitative
Triangulate qualitative data
Audio tapes
Case studies
Participant observation
LAB Action Research
5 Phases of Inquiry
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are needed to see this picture.
QuickTime™ and a
are needed to see this picture.
E.Ferrance, LAB
Research proposal
• Choose a topic that will help improve your
teaching practice
• Identify the steps needed (see the cycle
• Write a brief outline for a proposal
following guidelines
Improve your proposals
Good topic
Workable plan
Concrete information
Structured research method
Good theoretical foundation
Evidence of good writing
Reasons for proposal rejection
Not action research, belongs in general research
Methods and procedures not action research
Missing cycle: planning-action-reflection-change
Problem not clearly stated
Questions, purposes, methods, data collection
• Uses old data (last semester)
• Doesn’t follow guidelines for research ethics
• Doesn’t suggest changes to improve teaching
Examples of successful proposals can be
provided to you by the Faculty
Development Center
Designing General Research
Select a topic
Identify the research problem
Conduct a literature search
State the research questions
Determine research methods
Identify data analysis procedures
Writing for publication
• Introduction
– The problem, the literature review
– Conclude introduction with purpose of study
• Method
– Participants, research design, materials
– Procedure, analyses
• Results
• Discussion
Action Research links
• LAB Action Research (PDF excellent, includes how
• Action Research Resources (very comprehensive
list ,Bob Dick thru 2004)
• Action Research articles and resources from CU
Denver (Martin Ryder)
• AERA 2001 Action Research Papers (3 papers
accepted at the American Educational Research
More Links
• Action Research (short article about)
• Action Research, Strategy (very simple, includes
one link and other refs.)
• Qualitative Research Net (online journal that
promotes sharing)
Hsieh Hsieh

Conducting Research:Proposal for Action Research