Source: Educational Action Research, Volume 15, Issue 1 March 2007, pages 5-19
Along with the narrative turn in social sciences, the quality of research has become a more and more intricate issue. Action research reports are often narratives, located in the context of the evolving experiences of those involved. In this paper, the problem of quality in action research narratives is addressed, and some principles for assessing the quality of narrative research reports are proposed.
The issue is explored both at a theoretical-conceptual level and through a number of practical cases from the narrative-biographical research project TeacherLife. As narrative researchers, the authors are not willing to accept an extremely relativistic stand. They argue the need for conceptual tools to grasp the problem of quality of narratives, but tools different from the traditional concepts of validity and reliability, which harbour markedly positivistic connotations.
They propose five principles for judging the quality of action research from a narrative point of view. According to these principles, a good action research narrative firstly acknowledges the past course of events that have shaped the present practices (the principle of historical continuity). Secondly and thirdly, it is reflexive (the principle of reflexivity) and elaborates the story dialectically (the principle of dialectics).
Fourthly, a decisive criterion for successful action research is that it produces some useable practices that, in one way or another, can be regarded as useful (the principle of workability). The authors agree with Aristotle, who claims that a good narrative involves a balance between 'logos', 'ethos' and 'pathos'.
They place emphasis on 'ethos' and 'pathos' through a principle of evocativeness. These criteria are not proposing as an established checklist, and the authors point to the overlap between some of them. They are drawn from experience in supervising action research projects, evaluating narrative reports and encouraging people to write authentic narratives of their research work.