Participatory Action Research and Policy-Influenced Research Methodology

Session Report
Vamsi Gokaraju


Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI) conducted Public Policy Qualitative Participatory Action Research Fieldwork Fellowship Cohort 2.0, a comprehensive 4-month program that offered a unique blend of engaging lectures interactive workshops networking opportunities, and Hands-On fieldwork experiences led by esteemed experts. Throughout the course, the attendees gained a deep understanding of public policy and its impact on diverse societal issues and were privileged to learn from globally and nationally renowned thematic experts and practitioners.

The program covered crucial skills including qualitative research methods research tool preparation such as interviews, FGDS and KIS tool testing methods, stakeholder mapping, fieldwork research writing, and reporting. As part of this transformative journey attendees immersed themselves in the intricacies of literature review honing their skills through valuable discussions with esteemed experts in the field.

On day 1, Professor Vijay Raghavan, Professor, Centre for Criminology and Justice, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai Campus conducted the inaugural session of the program. After giving a brief introduction about himself, Professor Vijay went on to explain what he was going to talk about in the first session. Prof. Vijay said that he would talk about the participatory methodologies of research and policy-influenced methodologies of research and then focus on the real-world applications that he was associated with.

Participatory Action Research

Professor Vijay went on to explain Participatory Action Research which is a qualitative research methodology that involves researchers and participants collaborating to understand social issues towards taking actions to bring about social change. An umbrella term for research approaches that engage stakeholders in each step of the research process. It engages all relevant parties – participants, communities, and others with interest in the issue defining the research problems, developing questions, gathering data, analyzing the collected data, and preparing recommendations.

In simpler terms, this study engages those close to the problem (participatory) while also striving to make positive change (action).

Policy Influenced Research

After explaining participatory action research, Professor Vijay went on to explain Policy Influenced Research which is researching on, or analysis of, a fundamental social problem in order to provide policymakers with pragmatic, action-oriented recommendations for alleviating the problem. Professor Vijay then covered these topics within Policy Influenced Research:

-> Ground to policy

-> How to involve participants and stakeholders – workshops, meetings, interviews, FGDs

-> How to impact policy – dissemination, approaching authorities, and going to court

-> Media advocacy 

Real World Applications

Professor Vijay explained both participatory action and policy-influenced research and then went on to explain some real-world examples that he encountered as a part of his research experience under Prayas. Some of them included:

-> Children of Prisoners’ study

-> Family contact study

-> Rapid Assessment study

-> Bail study


The session held by Dr. Vijay Raghavan was very insightful and covered various aspects of participatory action and policy-influenced research. Topics range from the explanation of both types of research in evidence-based policy to the real-world applications where they were used. Concepts such as the stakeholders, media advocacy, impact policy, and much more were covered in the session by Professor Vijay during the session. The session then went on to talk about real-world examples for a better understanding of the students about which kind of research is used when

Question and Answer Session

After the session, Professor Vijay Raghavan took a short Q&A session to make sure that the students were not confused with any concepts that were taught in the session. Various questions were asked which paved the way for a healthy discussion between the instructor and the students. Students asked doubts which helped them understand the concept in a better way. One participant asked Professor Vijay about the interview process and if one of the stakeholders was the victim. Professor Vijay responded by discussing that in such situations, the children who were the victims, should not be interviewed.

Instead, Professor Vijay suggests that the interviewers can interview the people who are connected to the victims within the shelter home. He also emphasized the importance of maintaining confidentiality, not informing the children about what and why they were being questioned, and ensuring that the questionnaire has questions related and unrelated to abuse to ensure honest answers. Professor Vijay also highlighted the need for extra time in fieldwork to prepare for potential changes in location or village. He then offered to answer any questions from the attendees and emphasized the importance of continued discussion on the subject.

Vamsi Gokaraju is a Research Intern at IMPRI.

Disclaimer: All views expressed in the article belong solely to the author and not necessarily to the organization.

Read more session reports:

Feminist Immersion: Reflexivity, Decoloniality, and Global Impact

Indian Feminism: Legacy and Future

Posted by Vamsi Gokaraju, Research Intern at IMPRI.