Participatory method of Research

 Participatory Method of Research


Participatory research methods are geared towards planning and conducting the research process with those people whose life-world and meaningful actions are under study. Consequently, this means that the aim of the inquiry and the research questions develop out of the convergence of two perspectives— that of science and of practice. In the best case, both sides benefit from the research process. Everyday practices, which have long since established themselves as a subject of inquiry, introduce their own perspective, namely, the way people deal with the existential challenges of everyday life. 

The participatory research process enables co-researchers to step back cognitively from familiar routines, forms of interaction, and power relationships in order to fundamentally question and rethink established interpretations of situations and strategies. However, the convergence of the perspectives of science and practice does not come about simply by deciding to conduct participatory research. Rather, it is a very demanding process that evolves when two spheres of action—science and practice—meet, interact, and develop an understanding for each other. 

Participatory action research (PAR) is an approach to research in communities that emphasizes participation and action. It seeks to understand the world by trying to change it, collaboratively and following reflection. PAR emphasizes collective inquiry and experimentation grounded in experience and social history. Within a PAR process, "communities of inquiry and action evolve and address questions and issues that are significant for those who participate as co-researchers". PAR contrasts with many research methods, which emphasize disinterested researchers and reproducibility of findings.

PAR practitioners make a concerted effort to integrate three basic aspects of their work: participation (life in society and democracy), action (engagement with experience and history), and research (soundness in thought and the growth of knowledge). "Action unites, organically, with research" and collective processes of self-investigation.The way each component is actually understood and the relative emphasis it receives varies nonetheless from one PAR theory and practice to another. This means that PAR is not a monolithic body of ideas and methods but rather a pluralistic orientation to knowledge making and social change. 

Tavistock broke new ground in other ways as well, by meshing general medicine and psychiatry with Freudian and Jungian psychology and the social sciences to help the British army face various human resource problems. This gave rise to a field of scholarly research and professional intervention loosely known as psychosociology, particularly influential in France (CIRFIP). Several schools of thought and 'social clinical' practise belong to this tradition, all of which are critical of the experimental and expert mindset of social psychology. Most formulations of psychosociology share with OD a commitment to the relative autonomy and active participation of individuals and groups coping with problems of selfrealization and goal effectiveness within larger organizations and institutions. In addition to this humanistic and democratic agenda, psychosociology uses concepts of psychoanalytic inspiration to address interpersonal relations and the interplay between self and group. It acknowledges the role of the unconscious in social behaviour and collective representations and the inevitable expression of transference and countertransference—language and behaviour that redirect unspoken feelings and anxieties to other people or physical objects taking part in the action inquiry.

Participatory research integrates scientific investigation with education and political action. Researchers work with members of a community to understand and resolve community problems, to empower community members, and to democratize research. The methods of participatory research include group discussions of personal experience, interviews, surveys, and analysis of public documents. Topics that have been investigated with this approach include community issues such as polluted water supplies and the school curriculum, employment issues such as working conditions and unionization, and theoretical issues about consent and resistance to domination. For social scientists who question the traditions of being detached and value-free, and who seek an approach that is less hierarchical and that serves the interests of those with little power, participatory research is a valuable alternative.

Participatory research can be identified by five characteristics: (1) participation by the people being studied; (2) inclusion of popular knowledge; (3) a focus on power and empowerment; (4) consciousness raising and education of the participants; and (5) political action. A precise definition should be avoided so that each group that does participatory research can be free to develop some of its own methods.

A focus on power and empowerment also distinguishes most participatory research. "The core issue in participatory research is power. . . the transformation of power structures and relationships as well as the empowerment of oppressed people," states Patricia Maguire in her excellent analysis of the field (1987, p. 37). Participatory researchers differ widely in their positions on empowerment, and include radicals who try to transform the power structure by mobilizing peasants to wrest land from the ruling class, as well as conservatives who ignore power relations and focus on limited improvements such as building a clinic or a collective irrigation system.

Its consciousness raising and education—is closely related to power. Group discussions and projects typically attempt to reduce participants' feelings of self-blame and incompetence, and try to relate personal problems to unequal distributions of power in the community and the society. Participants often become visibly more confident and effective as they speak out in discussions, learn that others share some of their experiences, and learn research skills and relevant technical information. 

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