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Yasser Payne with PAR participants

What is Community-Based Research/Creative Scholarship?

Community-Based Research/Creative Scholarship questions are derived from the intersection of faculty research and the needs of a community. The answers to the questions provide a valuable service to the community partner, while creating an important focus for faculty and student researchers. The process is collaborative and dynamic, as it combines classroom learning with social action. Ultimately, the community is empowered to address needed changes, and the students and their faculty mentors gain knowledge and skills that may lead to a lifelong commitment to civic engagement. Hills and Mullett (2000) stated, “Community-based research therefore is collaborative, participatory, empowering, systemic and transformative.”

Components of Community-Based Research/Creative Scholarship:

Community-situated. It begins with a research topic of practical relevance to the community (as opposed to individual scholars) and is carried out in community settings.

Collaborative. Community members and researchers equitably share control of the research agenda through active and reciprocal involvement in the research design, implementation and dissemination.

Action-oriented. The process and results are useful to community members in making positive social change and in promoting social equity.

What is the difference between Community-Based Research/Creative Scholarship and traditional scholarship?

There are several distinct differences between Community-Based Research/Creative Scholarship and traditional research/creative scholarship. This chart (.pdf format) sheds light on these differences.

Community Based Research Examples

Participatory Action Research

Participatory Action Research Strategies involve the participants as co-researchers. Unlike the top-down – researcher as one with the knowledge – in this method, the participant is seen as a contributor to the research process. Photovoice and Participatory Photo Mapping (PPM) are additional forms of PAR.

PAR is collaborative, critical, participatory, and developmental. It focuses on enabling key stakeholders to address problems they see as important. It is concerned with research alongside stakeholders rather than doing research about them. It is concerned with achieving ongoing improvements rather than once-off solutions. It links theory and practice and calls for rigorous critical thinking on the part of all involved. PAR aims for ownership of the whole development process by agency stakeholders. It argues that each specific change should be determined by those who will be affected by it. Read an overview White Paper from Suziq Consulting (.pdf)

Recent local examples of PAR

UD Research Magazine Vol. 4 No. 1: Overcoming violence through opportunity on the streets of Black America


Photovoice is a participatory action research methodology that facilitates participant empowerment by creating and combining photography with grassroots social action. Participants are asked to represent their community point of view by taking photographs, discussing them together, developing narratives to go with their photos, and conducting outreach or other action. This research methodology was developed by Caroline C. Wang of the University of Michigan and Mary Ann Burris of the Ford Foundation in 1992.

Example by David Cooper formerly of Michigan State University

"Photovoice project brings new perspectives to Mali visitors, students"

Participatory Photo Mapping

PPM is a transdisciplinary community-based research methodology that integrates digital tools, narrative interviewing, and participatory protocols for knowledge production (Dennis, Gaulocher, Carpiano, & Brown, 2009). In this method, community members are provided with digital camera and GIS Units. They take pictures of some aspect of their community where change is needed. Next, the photos become the object of interviews that are attached to particular images. The third step entails a mapping of the images with the GIS data. Finally, action items are developed by the participants and presented to policy makers (Dennis et al. p. 468). In sum, this is a method that can engage people in research about their lived experiences. Both qualitative and quantitative data emanates from this methodology.

Example of participatory photo mapping

Community dance programs provide a venue for participatory photo mapping community based research methodology. Research Question: If free dance classes are offered as a part of a recreation program in a low-income section of the city, will more middle school girls become involved in and appreciate the benefits of physical activity? Girls, who self-identify as low physical activity, are given the opportunity to take dance classes and research their lived experiences. With partners, the girls take pictures of their typical day prior to participating in the dance classes. Next, their partners photograph them participating in dance classes. Photos of before and after are used as interview prompts for a discussion about the importance of dance and physical activity. Finally, the girls are requested to write letters to the principals of their schools and the local recreation center director, requesting more opportunities to have dance classes. In essence, the girls select photos they believe best represent their lives. They contextualize the photos by telling the story of the photos. They identify what they consider to be the themes that emerge from the photos. (Overby, L., In Press)