There is still little written about doing participatory action research (PAR) as a doctoral student. This paper provides a missing first-person account of doing a PAR Ph.D. in the Peace and Conflict Studies (PACS) field. Based on the author’s own experience of using PAR as part of his PACS doctoral degree this paper reflects on why he decided to use PAR in his doctorate project and how he went about doing it. It further highlights some of the benefits (academic and non-academic) of doing a PAR Ph.D., as well as challenges faced and responses to them. Four key lessons learned are also offered with the hope that they will be helpful to others embarking on PAR. The paper also includes a discussion of the broader implications for those interested in doing PAR, as well as a call for more PAR in the PACS field, making the argument that it offers a powerful means for narrowing the oft-cited gap between peace research and peace action.

Author Bio(s)

Phill Gittins, Ph.D, is a practitioner-scholar with over 20 years programming, analysis, and teaching experience in the areas of youth, peace, and conflict. He currently serves as Co-Director, Global Curriculum Development, for NewGen Peacebuilders. He is also a Rotary Peace Fellow, Kathryn Davis Fellow for Peace, and Peace Ambassador for the Institute for Economics and Peace. His academic background is in Peace and Conflict Studies, Education and Training, Youth and Community Work, and Counselling and Psychotherapy. His research and practice focuses on the roles that education and young people play in contributing to conflict and peace. He has designed and led trainings in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Denmark, England, Turkey, and the USA in peace education, peacebuilding, conflict analysis, conflict transformation, terrorism, psychology and psychotherapy. His forthcoming book, A collaborative approach to developing context-specific peace education programme: Theory, research, and praxis, will be published by Information Age Publishing in their Peace Education Series. His first book explored the theory, research, and practice of peace and peace education.


Participatory action research (PAR); PhD; peace and conflict studies; peace education; practitioner-research; community-university partnerships

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