Schulz Information Center

“One of the best ways to understand the world is to try to change it”
—Kurt Lewin, the social researcher who coined the phrase “action research”

SSU faculty member

Differences Between Community-Based Research, Community-Based Particpatory Research, and Action Research

Action research can be described as a family of research methodologies that pursue action (or change) and research (or understanding) at the same time.

"In its simplest form: Action research is a way of generating research about a social system while simultaneously attempting to change that system. While conventional social science aims at producing knowledge about social systems (some of which may eventually prove useful to those wishing to effect change), action research seeks both to understand and to alter the problems generated by social systems."1

Principles of action research:

  • Uses a cyclic or spiral process, which alternates between action and critical reflection and in the later cycles, continuously refining methods, data and interpretation in the light of the understanding developed in the earlier cycles.
  • It is thus an emergent process that takes shape as understanding increases; it is an iterative process that converges towards a better understanding of what happens.2

Community-Based Research is in the community and benefits the community.

Community-based Research takes place in community settings and involves community members in the design and implementation of research projects, demonstrates respect for the contributions of success that are made by community partners, as well as respect for the principle of "doing no harm" to the communities involved.

In order to achieve these goals, the following principles should guide the development of research projects involving collaboration between the researchers and community partners, whether the community partners are formally structured community-based organizations or informal groups of individual community members.

Principles of Community-Based Research:

  • CBR is a collaborative enterprise between researchers (professors and/or students) and community members. It engages university faculty, students and staff with diverse partners and community members.
  • CBR validates multiple sources of knowledge and promotes the use of multiple methods of discovery and of dissemination or the knowledge produced.
  • CBR has as its goal: social action and social change for the purpose of achieving social justice.
  • In most forms it is also participative (among other reasons, change is usually easier to achieve when those affected by the change are involved) and it's qualitative.3

1Troppe, Marie. Participatory Action Research: Merging the Community and Scholarly Agendas. Providence: Campus Compact, 1994.Opens in new tab.
Contact the CCE to access this in the CCE Resource Library.

2Winter, Richard. Some principles and procedures for the conduct of action research. In Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt, editor, New Directions in Action Research. Routledge, rst edition, August 1996.

3Community-Based Research and Higher Education: Principles and PracticesOpens in new tab.by Kerry Strand San Francisco, CA : Jossey-Bass, c2003.
Contact the CCE to request a copy.