Researchers Become the Researched

Researchers become the researched

A blog inspired by Zhang, Z., Fyn, D., Langelotz, L., Lönngren, McCorquodale, L. & Nehez, J. (2014). Our way(s) to action research: Doctoral students’ international and interdisciplinary collective memory

In addition to being doctoral students, six students from two different countries and 3 different disciplines share one thing in common—they all are drawn into the world of Action Research (AR) and are trying to become action researchers. As a doctoral student who is also drawn into AR, yet still trying to understand how to become one—I have the similar questions to those posed by the researchers in the article “Our way(s) to action research: Doctoral students’ international and interdisciplinary collective memory work” (Zhang et al, 2014).

The more I read the more I wanted to learn more about the lived experiences of these researchers. During a conference in Canada, they realize that they share frustrations, tensions, struggles and other things in common in relation to their research. This realization lead them to jointly examine and explore their pathway to becoming action researchers.

Yes, AR generates knowledge; serves as a bridge between theory and practice, and has the purpose of transforming reality. Yet there is no ‘right way’ of doing action research. One of the reasons why these doctoral students experienced frustrations or tensions stems from being trained as technical researchers. For example, as technical researchers—which I can relate to coming from a background in molecular biology and genetics—we do research “on” rather than “with”.

However, this is not the case with action research as participants are also researchers and researchers step into participants’ realities with the goal of better understanding their realities. Research with participants requires building relationships and achieving new levels of understanding and new forms of knowledge. These researchers came to this realization through examining their identities, reflecting on processes, unlearning, deconstructing and then reconstructing their identities and their relationship to their co-researchers. This helped them to understand that if a change is desired through action research, it first has to come from within. A growth should take place inside the researcher as “it is essential to the action researcher who desires to become more than she is and chooses to use reflection within the boundaries of action research” (Zhang et al., 2014).

The exploration of their journey entailed multiple face-to-face and phone conversations as well as e-mail chains, reflections, and examinations of one’s own practices. Sharing their stories allowed them to reflect on and connect deeply to their own thoughts, and to make stronger emotional connections with action research participants. It is this reflective sharing of stories which paved the way for them to become action researchers, yet these tools were unavailable to them from their previous technical training.

This article is special to me in terms of showing that researchers need to empower themselves in order to care for, empower, and transform others. This self-empowerment emerges in part through self-reflection into personal and collective identities and their relationship to the research process.

Blog post by Inci Yilmazli Trout

Inci Yilmazli Trout
Inci Yilmazli Trout is a doctoral student in International Education and Entrepreneurship at the University of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, TX. She holds a B.Sc. in Molecular Biology and Genetics, and a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration. As an aspiring action researcher, her research interests include doctoral students’ learning experiences, refugee studies, entrepreneurship education, emotional intelligence, and educational research.