Action Research Reporting: Is Your Project Valid, Credible, or Reliable?

At the end of your action research project, or even as a formative assessment in the middle, you need to revisit your data and analyze what you really did. This article is the last of five articles outlining the process of analyzing research findings and analyzing and reporting action research. Analysis and reporting are alchemical processes through which the researcher carefully considers everything he has done, and from this reflection an entirely new version of what happened emerges. Whether and to what extent this new embodiment of work is compelling or important to others has a great deal to do with how deeply you can justify whether or not your work is valid, credible, or reliable for others. This article is the last in a series of five articles that will guide you through both thinking about your project and what it takes to report on it.

Research practice is typically measured against the standards of validity, credibility, and reliability. Argue together that your findings and conclusions are correct and your report will be compelling to your audience. Valid, credible and reliable are concepts that apply beyond the research community, although they have a very specific meaning within a research paradigm. Now you must be wondering whether or not you can claim your work against these three standards.


AR has two overarching goals: 1) to increase personal and community knowledge about a topic of this study, and 2) to show results for improvement or movement towards a defined purpose. The extent to which the practitioner can demonstrate these two goals then determines the validity of his claims. Your study may be valid in one area but not the other, as discussed earlier in this chapter when we separated your personal results from your professional results. Mr. and Anderson go on to discuss different types of validity, each of which is a claim that you could make in your final report.

result Validity is whether you have successfully reached your goal or not.

procedure Validity discusses whether you can show that your research was well done, that it included the voices of others in context, and that it met the research standards discussed in this book.

Democratically Validity is appropriate for participatory action research studies and shows that the voices of all members of the community have been considered.

catalytic Validity is illustrated in the nurse’s study in the previous section of this chapter. This is when one of your results exceeds your goal in one or more ways.

Finally, dialogical Validity can be claimed to the extent that you can demonstrate that a diverse group of stakeholders were involved and now agree with your final conclusions and analysis. Dialogic validity requires discussion of how others collaborated with you throughout the project and through analysis and report writing.


There are two attributes you need to consider when writing your final report to ensure its credibility with your stakeholders: how you’re reporting the data and how you’re reporting the process. Credibility (whether your case is compelling or not) is the degree to which the person reading the report thinks it makes sense. This is a subjective assessment and requires action researchers to be aware of their audience and context. Most action research uses simultaneous qualitative and quantitative data collection strategies, and together they reinforce each other. As mentioned earlier, qualitative data such as interviews can be quantified by counting how often certain topics are discussed. Also, the percentage of people who agree with one or the other quantifies qualitative evidence and makes it seem more solid or believable to the reader. Likewise, quantitative evidence can be qualified by discussing key phrases written as comments or adding quotes from interviews that are consistent with the outcome that has developed. Your final report will become more believable to the extent that you can bring all of your data together and weave it together so that the interplay between them makes sense to your reader.

The second question to consider is how or if you will report your process. While action researchers enjoy the cycles of discovery, measurable action, and reflection, they are not strictly necessary in the final report. At the same time, there may be specific reasons why you need to explain the process in order to make what you’ve found seem natural and therefore more believable to your audience. As a general rule, once you have found that your process has contributed to your results, you should also discuss your process with your reader. Assuming your findings are valid, writing them down as part of the process that revealed them will add further credibility.


Action research often attempts to produce an effect on complex things or situations. As a result, results may not transfer reliably across different settings, and action researchers generally do not believe in a one-size-fits-all solution. Still, it’s interesting to read what’s happening to others in your field and I firmly believe in the reliability of the AR project outcome. They are useful, if not to create a model for success, then at least to provoke new and innovative ideas in business, non-profit organizations and public administration. Therefore, you might want to start increasing the reliability of your project by reading the studies of other action researchers.

There are two types of reliability: internal and external. Internal has to do with whether and to what extent you followed sound research practices in collecting and analyzing your data. You must also be able to demonstrate a one-to-one correlation between your data and your results. Both count as internal reliability. Another test of reliability is whether or not these studies could be implemented in new settings, and this is called external reliability. It is wise to discuss both when writing a report for an academic audience.

That concludes this series of five short articles designed to help you, the action researcher, analyze your data and write your final report. This series has also discussed how to analyze action research from a personal perspective or in relation to its purpose or as a result of your measurable actions and ultimately determine if you have succeeded or failed overall. Regardless of the outcome of this particular action research project, it has proven itself as a transformational tool and is very useful for individuals or groups trying to bring about positive change in complex situations.

Thanks to E. Alana James | #Action #Research #Reporting #Project #Valid #Credible #Reliable

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