Research Methods Course Focusing on Action Research


Published: November 22, 2021 by Dr. Renée Jefferson

I love teaching the action research special topics section of INFO 285: Applied Research Methods because it is engaging, empowering, and motivating.  It is engaging to work with students as they discover how action research empowers them to examine policies and practices using sound methodologies, and how it motivates them to make evidence based decisions.  In this course, we cover the fundamental principles, processes, values and roles of research for professional application in information organizations.  Students learn how to become critical consumers of research products and learn the basic skills of planning, designing, executing and reporting research as well as evaluating and applying published research findings.  Emphasis will concentrate on developing, planning, and producing a quality research proposal.

The course begins with students getting to know each other and the instructor using an in-depth introduction exercise.  Students completing courses prior to taking action research are given the opportunity to become reacquainted; and students who may not know anyone are able to discover and share what they have in common with other students in the course.  The major course project is the Action Research Study Proposal, which contains the introduction, method, and reference sections of a research study.  Students may choose to work on the proposal individually or with a group up to size 4.  Course assignments focus on sections of the proposal, beginning with identifying a topic and locating scholarly sources.  With this assignment, students are able to see everyone’s topics and sources, which often results in groups forming; and more importantly, sharing of sources. 

Formatting sources according to APA guidelines is the favorite thing students like to do in the action research course.  Right!  (I was chuckling as I wrote the sentence.)  For years I tried different strategies to teach the mechanics of formatting in-text citations and creating the list of references.  The current strategy includes students reviewing APA guidelines on in-text citations and writing a summary about what they learned; in addition to completing APA quizzes and creating a list of references for the scholarly sources identified in the first assignment.  My objective for this strategy is to give students an opportunity to see what they know about APA formatting, learn something new, and then apply it.  These activities are followed by a draft of the introduction, annotated bibliography, and method sections for which students receive detailed feedback.  I should note that the annotated bibliography replaces the literature review section and includes a summary, analysis, and application of each source.  It helps students take focused notes and reflect on the information read, while promoting analysis of the information read and assisting in developing critical reading skills.  Students also complete the CITI Program on protecting human research subjects.

At the beginning of each semester, I am excited to see the topics students plan to explore and to work with them through the journey of creating an action research study proposal.  After teaching action research courses for almost 25 years, my excitement about teaching the course continues to increase.  This excitement is based on how students have used of action research methods improve practices and solve problems across various areas within library and information science and my use in research and accreditation.  In 2014, New Review of Academic Librarianship published an issue on Action Research and the Academic Library Practitioner: Theories and Applications.  While the issue demonstrates how action research empowers academic library and information science professionals to explore, examine, or investigate policies, procedures, and practices (Jefferson, 2014), its applicability spans across all areas of library and information science.  Regardless of your area of interest, you can become engaged, empowered, and motivated by action research.


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