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Introduction to Community-Based Research

What is Community-Based Research (CBR)?

Community-Based Research is an equitable, collaborative approach to research, involving students, staff, faculty, and community partners in all aspects of the research process.  CBR typically examines a problem (or set of problems) of pressing community concern and integrates what is discovered in such a way that the quality of life of community members can ultimately be improved (Israel et al, 2005).

What are the overarching principles of CBR?

  • CBR acknowledges the importance of community
  • CBR builds on the strengths and resources of the community and community members
  • CBR is a collaborative, equitable, power-sharing process that attends to social inequalities
  • CBR fosters co-learning and capacity building among all partners
  • CBR balances the quest for knowledge with the quest for community wellness
  • CBR insists upon the local relevance of research problems 
  • CBR is iterative, reflective, and self-updating
  • CBR involves all partners in the dissemination and utilization of research findings
  • CBR is committed to building sustainable, mutually beneficial community partnerships

(see Israel et al., 2003)

What makes a successful CBR partnership?

  • A shared worldview
  • General agreement about project goals and strategies
  • Mutual trust and mutual respect
  • Shared decision-making
  • Careful communication and close listening
  • Mutual empathy
  • A long-range perspective

(see Strand et al, 2003)

How is CBR different from traditional research?


Traditional research


Primary goal

Advance disciplinary knowledge

Contribute to community wellness

Source of research question

Academic literature

Community-identified problem

Research designer

Trained outside expert

Campus and community collaboration

Role of community

Object to be studied

Collaborator, partner and learner

Role of students

Recipients of textbook knowledge or research assistants

Collaborators, partners, and learners

Relationships between faculty and community

Short-term, task-oriented, detached

Long-term, multifaceted, connected

Measure of value

Acceptance by academic peers (e.g. Tier 1 publication)

Usefulness for community

Criteria for method selection

Conformity to standards of academic rigor

Balance between rigor, utility, and sensitivity


Faculty and discipline

Faculty, discipline, students, community

Ownership of findings



(based on Strand et al, 2003)