Theory and Literature Review: Participatory Action Research

Theoretical frameworks and research are interconnected. Grant and Osanloo (2014) describe writing a dissertation to follow the allegory of building a house.

The theoretical framework is the foundation from which all knowledge is constructed (metaphorically and literally) for a research study. It serves as the structure and support for the study’s rationale, the problem statement, the purpose, the significance, and the research questions. The theoretical framework provides a grounding base, or an anchor, for the literature review, and most importantly, the methods and analysis (p. 12).

My dissertation will be a qualitatively designed research project. I will be using both methodologies and theories related to participatory action research. Salmons (2019) posits that the selected theoretical framework relates to the research design and helps the researcher situate themselves within their methodology and epistemological position.

Last semester, I wrote about Understanding Theoretical Frameworks Through the Example of Participatory Research, (Campbell, 2020). Freire (1921/2000) describes what he calls problem-posing education as a way of breaking the vertical patterns characteristic of banking education. In this dialogue, the relationship moves away from being teacher-of-the-students, and students-of-the-teacher moves to a new concept of teacher-student and student-teacher. At the core of participatory action research is the interrelationship between the facilitator and co-researchers. It is through this process “people develop their power to per­ceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves; they come to see the world not as a static reality, but as a reality in process, in transformation” (p. 83).

Participatory action research features both the accumulation of knowledge and rigor in contextual determinacy (Borda, 2008). Alcoff (1991) highlights the importance of working as co-researchers. Action research is useful for creating transformation and change within educational systems (Altrichter & Posch, 2013; Saunders & Somekh, 2013) Chevalier and Buckles (2019) describe participatory action research as both a scientific technique and theory.


Alcoff, L. (1991). The Problem of Speaking for Others. Cultural Critique, 20, 5.

Altrichter, H., & Posch, P. (2013). Chapter 17 - Action research, professional development, and systemic reform. In S. E. Noffke & B. Somekh (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of educational action research (pp. 213–225). SAGE.

Borda, O. F. (2008). The application of the social sciences’ contemporary issues to work on participatory action research. Human Organization; Oklahoma City, 67(4), 359-361.

Campbell, J (2020 April 08) Understanding theoretical frameworks through the example of participatory research.

Chevalier, J. M., & Buckles, D. (2019). Introduction - Engaging with participatory action research. In Participatory action research: Theory and methods for engaged inquiry (pp. 1-8). Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Freire, P. (1921/2000). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum.

Grant, C., & Osanloo, A. (2014). Understanding, selecting, and integrating a theoretical framework in dissertation research: Creating the blueprint for your “house.” Administrative Issues Journal Education Practice and Research, 4(2), 12-26.

Salmons, J. (2019). Find the theory in your research. SAGE Publications Inc.

Saunders, L., & Somekh, B. (2013). Chapter 15 - Action research and educational change: Teachers as innovators. In S. E. Noffke & B. Somekh (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of educational action research (pp. 190–201). SAGE.

About This

This essay was originally submitted as a part of my TSD 6526 - Ecology of Ideas while at CIIS working on my Ph.D.