Action research can be described as a family of research methodologies which pursue action (or change) and research (or understanding) at the same time. In most of its forms it does this by
* using a cyclic or spiral process which alternates between action and critical reflection and
* in the later cycles, continuously refining methods, data and interpretation in the light of the understanding developed in the earlier cycles.
It is thus an emergent process which takes shape as understanding increases; it is an iterative process which converges towards a better understanding of what happens.
In most of its forms it is also participative (among other reasons, change is usually easier to achieve when those affected by the change are involved) and qualitative.