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Community-Based Research in Sociology

Community-Based Research

Community-based research (CBR) is a steadily growing specialty among institutions of higher education. Community-based research (CBR) combines new paradigms in research methods with an orientation to democratic processes of social and organizational change. As an attempt to leverage the research expertise of universities in the service of community identified needs, CBR rests on a very simple premise--communities have need for high quality research but limited resources with which to conduct or purchase those services while universities house significant amounts of research expertise. Community-based research thus provides a mechanism to align resources and needs.

What We Do In This Course

Community-Based Research in Sociology provides an opportunity to study in a collaborative context with a community-based organization (CBO). The  class projects involve working with CBO partners to do research that will increase the capacity of the CBO to meet the needs of its own constituents and better fulfill its mission. The faculty role in this model is to serve as a research project director, The students do the research in groups under faculty guidance, and both work to serve the needs of the CBO.

The results of each research project are reported to the CBO using agreed upon deliverables outlined early in the research process through collaboration with the CBO. All research teams collaborate with the CBO to design and produce a digital storytelling video of the topic researched. Other deliverables are agreed upon in collaboration with community partners. These can range from analyzing data gathered through audits of accessibiity in a range of field sites (universities, governmental monuments, parks and recreational areas), to mapping the journeys people experience when using community services, or providing a GIS map of landmark properties.

Community-Based Research in Sociology engages students in field-based CBR projects. Regardless of the field-site chosen, the research design of each project is action-oriented. Students will work closely with constituencies in geographic communities, communities of interest, and organizations as they carry out the research. Research activities are supported by weekly seminar meetings. These meetings combine instruction in research methods with substantive examinations of existing efforts in community development.

Video Storytelling

The video storytelling part of Community-Based Research in Sociology provides students with exposure to a range of capabilities that team members bring to the research process. Research teams learn to use visual ethnographic techniques for telling the stories of community partners. Using a video sharing tool, Voicethread, community partners are able to collaborate after interviews by reviewing the way they are represented in the digital story and, even though they sign media releases, are provided the opportunity to direct changes in the way the video represents them and their message. Interviewees are also able to revoke their media release up to the end of each semester.

You can review examples of the video stories developed since Community-Based Research in Sociology was first offered by clicking each year in the left menu. You will need to register (free service) with voicethread to view the videos.