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Table 1 Strengths and weaknesses of RCTs and Action Research

From: Should we embed randomized controlled trials within action research: arguing from a case study of telemonitoring

  RCT Action Research
   Epistemology (positivist, critical, interpretivist) Positivist Critical, interpretivist
   Ways of knowing One Many
Aim and design   
   Aims at improvement Yes Yes
   Aims to measure effectiveness of a clinical intervention Yes Yes, among other things
   Co-design of research plan, involving participants No Yes
   Participatory and democratic No Yes
   Controls for bias and confounding factors Yes No
   Accounts for and investigates context, social processes, patient engagement, equity No Yes
   Measures context-dependent interventions and interactions No Yes
   Incorporates complexity Limited Yes
   Creates communicative space At design phase Throughout
   Quantitative methods Yes Not necessarily
   Qualitative methods No Primarily
   Blinding Yes No
   Intervention improvement via cyclical iterations No Yes
   Design adjusted concurrent to emerging findings No Yes
   Derives data and results from practice of reflexivity No Yes
   Emergence (new, unexpected/expected knowledge) Yes, as incidental findings, unintended consequences Yes, as emergent findings specifically sought
   Results in immediate multidimensional change No Yes
   Results in later change in clinical practice Yes Yes