Suggestions for Writing the Action Research Report*
There are five structural elements for an action research report. Although these elements will be described in a particular order, they need not be that way in your report. In fact, they do not even need to be separated from one another.
The first element of the action research report is a description of the context within which the action research took place. Depending on the project that you do, the locus of the context can be your classroom, your school, or your school district. It is possible that the context of the project includes aspects of more than one of these. It is important to remember that the physical description of the setting is important, but that there are other aspects that are important depending on the project. For example, if your project focuses on working with parents or students, a description of these populations should be included. If the project relates to an entire district, salient features of the geographical and political area, as well as important features of the schools are part of the relevant context.
Statement and Origin of your Research Focus
The statement of your research focus should answer one or more of the following questions:
€ What did you investigate?
€ What have you accomplished or attempted to accomplish in this study?
€ What have been your goals?
This element of the report should also address the way in which your starting point developed. That is
How did the idea originate?
How and why did it change through the year?
What impact did your research notebook group have on the development of your starting point?
In addition, this section should include what you learned from reading the research literature that informed your study.
This element of the report focuses on the way in which you investigated your practice situation.
€ Describe what you did and why.
€ What sort of data did you collect?
€ How did you collect the data?
€ What successes or difficulties did you have in carrying out this action research?
The fourth element of the report states what it was that you accomplished and/or found out. Remember that all action research projects involve actions so therefore there are effects of those actions. And, every action research project results in the teacher coming to a new understanding of his or her own educational situation. Therefore each report should contain some description of what it was that you learned. Make sure to include any events, circumstances or data that contradict what you had hoped to do or find out.
Although this element is labeled implications, it is not necessary that each project have far reaching effects. These implications could be a statement of how participation in this research has affected the ways in which you look at your teaching, your students, or your school. In other words, do you see the educational world differently now, and how will that affect what it is that you will do next?
Finally, include a paragraph describing the next step of this research. Is it complete? Is there another scenario you wish to research? Explain how you would continue action research following up on this study or developing a new idea. Consider possible supports (without an action research course) and impediments to your efforts.
Overall, this structure is not dissimilar to what you may be familiar with -- the standard research report. There is a general introduction that places the research within the field, a statement of the problem or hypothesis, the method used, findings of the research, and finally, implications. But it can be significantly different because you may feel free to write in the first person and to use a narrative style -- to tell a validated story. You may also feel free to write in the formal style of scientific research. The choice is yours.
* Based on suggestions made by Peter Posch.