Resources and Help for Collecting and Examining Evidence

Research methods for action research are drawn from the same toolset used by qualitative and quantitative researchers. But often action researcher's find indirect measures that help them monitor the effects of their actions. Once data is collected, the analysis process begins. As you collect data organize and review it looking for themes or categories to organize what you are finding. Qualitative data can quickly be overwhelming without some way of organizing it. (Writing a weekly blog about your action research throughout the whole process will help you document your own thinking and will be data for your reflections.) If you organize your data into charts, tables, or other formats, this can help you make sense of what you are learning. It is not appropriate to include your "raw" data in your action research report and leave it up to the reader to do the analysis. It is your job, as the researcher, to read and reread your data until you get some ideas about how to create a clear and succinct pathway that will help others understand the meaning without having to read all of the materials you have collected. That is your goal. T

Here is a place for action researchers to share the different strategies they used to analyze data.
  • Those of you teach action research, please share your instructional strategies and tools for helping students learn how to analyze their data.
  • Those of you who are doing action research, please share your creative ideas for how you analyzed your data and what you learned from doing it.
  • Everyone, feel free to resources that might help with the data analysis

1) Instructional Strategies

* Learning Circles and Action Research (critical friend structure)

One way to validate your findings is to share them with a group of action researchers and think together about the validity of the evidence. Does that interpretations that are being made seem reasonably? Are there other accounts that are possible? Would other researchers using similar methods come to the same conclusions? Sharing action research with others who agree to take a critical stance and help examine the outcomes from multiple perspectives guards against narrow interpretations. This knowledge building dialogue is essential to improving practice.Learning circlesprovides an effective structure for these knowledge-building dialogues.

* Guide for Collection Evidence in College and University Teaching Action Research

This guide from our colleagues in New Zealand is focused on improving college level education has has some ideas for what forms of data to collect and use to assess teaching. You are welcome to download it.
A tertiary practitioner's guide to collecting evidence of learner benefit

* A Classroom Activity to teach Qualitative Skills

Using Qualtrics, we have been collecting short (3 sentence) definitions of action research by novice and experienced action researchers.
Would you take a minute to complete the survey and invite any of your students/colleague to do the same?

A description of the activity is in my syllabus (see activity #4)I hope to get some more responses outside of Pepperdine so that students can compare groups.
I would be happy to share the database report with you with any of you.
Here is a report on what students have contributed in the past (2005-2012)

I am happy to send you a updated one after this year's round of responses if you want. Just send me an

(Margaret Riel) email.

2) Ideas for Data Collection, Forms of Evidence, and Research Issues

* Validity in doing Action Research

Karen Watkins presented a discussion of action science and effects to provide valid findings by thinking through the criteria for judging the trustworthiness of action research as compared to other forms of qualitative research.

3) Resources for Data Collection, Analysis and Presentation

* Research Tutorials and Resources

The Online Evaluation Resource Library has a number of excellent tutorials for understanding how to collect feedback through observations and surveys and an overview of other tools for evaluative research have value for action researchers can be found at

Measuring Learning: A guidebook for gathering and interpreting evidence by Linda Shear, Geneva Haertel, Corinne Singleton, Sarah Zaner. This guidebook was developed to help educators use evidence for ongoing program improvement. It will be very useful for action research.

The American Evaluators Association has created a great blog, called AEA365 for Hot Tips and Cool Tricks for evaluators. As action researchers you are not in the role of evaluator but you are using many of the same tools and process for evaluating the success of your action. So some of these ideas and resources will be helpful as you think about how to collect, analyze, and the share the evidenced that you collect.
Evaluation research is not the same as action research, but it is in the same family and often action researchers use strategies that are in the evaluators toolkit.
This was created byThe Evaluators Trust in the UK they have a website with other tools and ideas.

* Qualitative Research Tools

Short video on qualitative research techniques
TAM Analyzer -- -- It is a free mac-based tool for coding both text and video -- I am using it for a project I am doing now and finding it very easy to learn to use. It is a free download
TAMS stands for Text Analysis Markup System. It is a convention for identifying themes in texts (web pages, interviews, field notes). It was designed for use in ethnographic and discourse research.

* Presentation and Visualization of Data

A site that might be helpful for understanding some basic concepts in statistics and how to display data can be found at This site is arranged as support for high school math teachers but there some interactives that might help you think about data displays. (And it is a fun way to play with math and statistic concepts).

Many eyes ( is a free tool for creating visualization of data sets.

for examples see...