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.



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.



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. Have you ever wondered what in-depth interviews are or what to consider when formulating 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 LGBT communities.

Webinar on qualitative interviewing for peer researchers. The Learning Exchange for HIV/AIDS Peer Researchers (LEAP) provides high quality interactive educational modules to support the work of peer researchers. This webinar was developing for researchers to familiarize themselves with key aspects of qualitative interviewing from the point of view of peer researchers in the field.

Mini Method-Toolkit on Qualitative Interviewing. This useful mini-toolkit was formulated by the Ontario Centre of Centre for Child and Youth Mental Health. It was developed by the Centre to enhance agencies’ evaluation skills and knowledge, and also to provide links to complementary Centre resources.



Case Studies in Collaborative, Community-Based Research. This compilation of case studies was developed by the Institute for Community Research. It was assembled to facilitate the sharing of ideas among community-based researchers, and to support the dissemination of research concepts, models and outcomes. This document will be helpful if you are looking for examples of what community-based case studies look like.



Digital Storytelling. This short manual was developed by 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. 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. This manual is a guide to designing and running a Photovoice project and was developed by the organization PhotoVoice to give an introduction to the power of participatory photography.

For a great example of a community-based photovoice study on HIV/AIDS and housing in BC, you can also review this poster presentation entitled “Take a picture, it will last longer: Peer-driven community action through photography,” from the Annual Canadian Conference on HIV/AIDS.

Arts-Based Evaluation. This manual was developed by ArtReach Toronto to help diverse stakeholders use creative activities to express value and meaning in the evaluation process and to explore ideas that might be difficult to communicate in other ways. Arts-based evaluation can be combined with other methods to evaluate and provide a well-rounded picture of an intervention or study.