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.



One overarching approach or method for community-based research is the idea of capacity-building or capacity-bridging. ‘Capacity-bridging’ is an emerging 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 the Canadian Aboriginal AIDS Network/Aboriginal HIV & AIDS CBR Collaborative Centre (AHA Centre) and Janice Duddy, PAN’s Director of Evaluation and Community-Based Research.

Capacity Bridging from PANBC on Vimeo.



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 Fact Sheets and policies including: Elders Policy; So You’ve Joined a Research Team, Now What??; Doing Research in a Good Way; and How to Write Field Notes. Another helpful resource is the Indigenous Ally Toolkit developed by the Montreal Urban Aboriginal Community Strategy Network.


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.



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 LGBT communities.

Method Mini-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.

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



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 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. 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.



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

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  • Hepatitis C (HCV) is a viral infection just as HIV is a viral infection. Unlike HIV, however, HCV can be treated and cured.  Treatment for HCV is available to anyone living with hepatitis C in BC.   Explore in Detail: Hepatitis C: Epidemiology, testing, treatment, resources HCV Manifesto Hepatitis C Treatment Options Expand in BC

  • The Evaluation News blog covers our work within PAN and with organizations in the community.  Learn about different kinds of evaluation like Realist Evaluation, learn how other organizations are using evaluation approaches, meet evaluators on the job, and find out about how you can help in community evaluation. Explore in detail:  Evaluation News blog Evaluation… Read more »

  • People with HIV can live long and healthy lives if they access to treatment and social support as needed. As people with HIV age, however, complications of aging can compound challenges of living with HIV. Concerns for people with HIV who are aging can include income security, stigma, safe and affordable housing, aging in place,… Read more »

  • Our Fall Conference, AGM, PLHIV Forum and ED Summit gathers people from across the province who share their programs and services, learn about new developments in public health, and help build a vibrant and supportive community. We also offer Regional conferences to customize capacity building-needs for different service areas in BC. After the events, with permission… Read more »

  • We offer our KnowledgeConnect webinars to reach our  member organizations as well as community leaders and stakeholders. Information is available when our viewers have the opportunity to connect. Watch for news on upcoming webinars in the blog. Follow the blog for news on upcoming webinars   Explore webinars by theme: Advocacy, Policy, Public Health Health Determinants… Read more »

  • In April 2016 BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared the overdose epidemic in BC a public health emergency.  Despite committed efforts, the epidemic continues, as overdose statistics show.  This has significant impact on first responders, including frontline staff at Pacific AIDS Network (PAN) member and allied organizations, and especially people with lived experience… Read more »

  • In April 2016 BC’s Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall declared the overdose epidemic in BC a public health emergency in April 2016.  Despite committed efforts, the epidemic continues, as overdose statistics show.  This has significant impact on first responders, including frontline staff at Pacific AIDS Network (PAN) member and allied organizations, and especially people… Read more »

  • Information about the law and the rights of people with HIV  Having HIV is not a crime, but law can impact heavily on the lives of people with HIV. The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network “is one of the world’s leading organizations tackling the legal and human rights issues related to HIV, and advocating at both… Read more »

  • Evaluation can help guide your organization or group to make decisions about programs, services, research, and more. Participatory research is just what it sounds like- people and communities take part in decision-making about what is evaluated, rather than being told what they “should” evaluate. Community is central to evaluation work and we can help you… Read more »


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