Schwartz Barcott (1993) describe the characteristics of action research as being inclusive of three approaches. They are the technical collaborative, mutual collaborative and enhancement approach. The technical collaborative approach has a natural science as its philosophical base, with a defined problem to generate predictive knowledge. The mutual approach has a historical-hermeneutic philosophical base with problems grounded within specific situations which produce descriptive knowledge. Lastly, the enhancement approach stems from the critical sciences based on values clarification and it generates knowledge which is both predictive and descriptive.
Hart and Bond (1995) describe the advantages to the nursing profession of this methodology by constructing a typology of the identifiable characteristics of action research. This typology suggests action research is educative, deals with individuals as members of groups, is constrained within a context, and is problem focused. It includes change intervention, is cyclic, aims to improve and is based on a relationship in which the participants are drawn into the change process.
Dick (1993) suggests that when practitioners use action research they can learn consciously from the process and create partnerships between the researcher and the participants.
The virtue of action research is its responsiveness. It is what allows you to turn unpromising beginnings into effective endings. It is what allows you to improve both action and research outcomes through a process of iteration. (p. 9)
Somekh (1995) claims that action research through praxis addresses the persistent inability of research in the social science disciplines to bring about actual improvements. Somekh continues that using this approach sees knowledge gain fed back into the practice, the unique frame of reference. She also adds that the orientation of action research is realistic and sensible. The researcher operates within the constraints of being a working practitioner and, therefore, there may be limited time in the research process.