Methods in Community-Based Research

While community-based research is an approach that is driven by guiding principles, such as being community-driven and action-oriented, studies are also guided by specific research methodologies or “methods” that represent the strategies that researchers use to collect, analyze and convey data. This section of our CBR Toolkit outlines some important methods in community-based research, and provides tools for planning, designing and implementing studies.


For researchers embarking on community-based studies for the first time or for those who wish to gain further understanding of research methods, we hope this resource page will be informative.


Capacity-Building or Capacity-Bridging

One overarching approach or method for community-based research is the idea of capacity-building or capacity-bridging. ‘Capacity-bridging’ is a term proposed by the AHA Centre that moves away from the implied deficits that accompany the term ‘capacity-building,’ and aims to instead acknowledge that all parties bring skills and knowledge to a collaborative experience. A capacity-bridging model recognizes and works to ‘bridge’ these diverse forms of knowledge to achieve a more rigorous and fulsome outcome. Please listen to a conversation between Sherri Pooyak, the Community Based Research Manager with Communities, Alliances and Networks (CAAN)/Aboriginal HIV & AIDS CBR Collaborative Centre (AHA Centre) and Janice Duddy, PAN’s Director of Evaluation and Research.


Methods in Community-Based Research

This resource was developed by PAN to describe various methods that are used in CBR and to give an overview of the different objectives and data-collection strategies involved. It also summarizes the pros and cons of each method and data-collection strategy. It is a good place to start if you are planning a research study and would like an overview of different methodologies to consider.

If you want more information about doing community-based research in Indigenous communities please visit the AHA Centre. They have developed some great information and resources. Another helpful resource is the Indigenous Ally Toolkit developed by the Montreal Indigenous Community Network.


Developing a Research Question

Developing a strong research question is an important first step in an community-based research study. The presentation: Developing a Research Question highlights important things to think about during this process.


Qualitative In-Depth Interviews

The qualitative, in-depth interview is research tool in which researchers ask mostly open-ended questions of participants, often using audio-recording for later transcription and analysis. In contrast to very structured survey questions, qualitative interviews are often semi-structured and flexible, so that researchers can follow up on emerging themes with additional questions. In-depth interviews are useful for exploring the diversity of the social world, including the different textures woven through everyday life as well as the perspectives, experiences, meanings and imaginings of research participants. As a method that celebrates depth, richness, nuance and intricacy, qualitative interviews also help us understand complex social phenomena, processes, relationships and how things work in particular contexts. Here are some important tools for designing and undertaking in-depth, qualitative interviews:

Infosheet on developing qualitative interview guides.This visual fact sheet was developed by PAN’s Positive Living, Positive Homes research team to share some simple tools for the collaborative development of interview guides.

Infosheet on asking interview questions to achieve depth. This fact sheet follows up on the former, providing some additional information on asking interview questions to find breadth and depth. It was developed by PAN’s Positive Living, Positive Homes research team to share information about different types of interview questions and creating well-balanced interview guides.

Fact sheet: Key Approaches to Qualitative Health Research and Conducting Interviews with LGBT Communities.This informative fact sheet was developed by Rainbow Health Ontario and describes how to do qualitative research using interpretive analysis with 2SLGBTQ+ communities. (Please note that this fact sheet is from 2012 and doesn’t reflect language more often used today, such as 2SLGBTQ+)

A House is Not a Home: The Importance of Qualitative Component in Housing and HIV Research a presentation by Dr. Surita Parashar.


Visual and Creative Methods

Digital Storytelling. This short manual was developed by Sarah Switzer and Ilona Alex Abramovich for the Empower Project. It contains information on what digital storytelling is and how it might be used. This information will be useful for those wishing to explore the benefits, challenges, ethical considerations and planning phases of digital-storytelling.

PhotoVoice is a participatory photography research method where participants are asked to photograph images that represent their community or express their point of view as a way to examine an issue.


Quantitative Methods

Quantitative Research in CBR: Data to Support Communities and Services a presentation by Dr. Cathy Worthington