Practical, Epistemological, and Ethical Challenges of Participatory Action Research: A Cross-Disciplinary Review of the Literature

Danielle Lake, Joel Wendland

Abstract


This article extends recent discussions on the practical, epistemological, and ethical challenges of participatory action research (PAR) for community-engaged scholars through a cross-disciplinary literature review. It focuses on how practitioners across fields define power, engage with conventional research approval processes, and manage risk. The review demonstrates that PAR can be a valuable research approach for community-engaged scholars, but problematic practices and disparities must be addressed. For instance, although PAR practitioners consistently articulate a commitment to empowering the community and shifting structures of oppression, contradictions around how to define and respond to power, engage with standard IRB practices, and cope with high levels of risk are prevalent. We conclude by offering a set of recommendations, highlighting the need for more transparent and self-reflexive methods; transdisciplinary practices; metrics designed to assess risk, inclusion, and power-sharing; ongoing dialogues across disciplinary and institutional divides; and inclusive authorship and open-access publishing practices. 


Keywords


participatory action research; ethical challenges; interdisciplinarity; institutional review board; community-engaged scholarship

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