In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Community-Based Participatory Research

  • Introduction
  • Terminologies
  • History
  • Introductory Works
  • Research Methods and Designs
  • Journals and Special Issues
  • Literature Reviews
  • Multi-Project Reviews
  • Tools and Guidance for CBPR Evaluation
  • Ethics
  • Challenges
  • Recommendations
  • Influencing Public Policy and Systems
  • Knowledge Translation
  • Long-term CBPR partnershps
  • Community Perspectives
  • Practice-Based Research Networks
  • Training Resources

Public Health Community-Based Participatory Research
Paula L. Bush, Joshua Hamzeh, Ann C. Macaulay
  • LAST REVIEWED: 26 January 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756797-0126


Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is an approach in which researchers undertake research in partnership with those affected by the issue being studied, for the purpose of taking action or effecting social change; it can also incorporate those who will use the results to change practice and inform policy. This collaborative research approach brings together a wide variety of participants, with their own expertise and their own networks for contributing to the process and disseminating the research findings. CBPR is research with communities rather than research on or about communities. “Community” has been described as a group of people sharing a common interest. Cultural, social, political, health, or economic interests link the individuals, who may or may not share a particular geographic association. The CBPR approach is increasingly recognized as highly effective for enhancing relevance and value to health research, and of increasing the uptake of research results. CBPR combines research with education, co-learning, and action to democratize the knowledge production, thus affecting the relevance and quality of the knowledge and the likelihood that it will be used and influence change. The core values include collaboration, with contributions from everyone present, and co-learning; promoting systems development; capacity building; and empowerment. Equally important goals are to undertake high-quality research with a high level of scientific rigor, to answer questions and provide benefit to all those working in the partnerships, to develop knowledge and action that is applicable to other settings, and to develop equitable partnerships. Levels and types of participation vary within and among research projects, but at a minimum, all stakeholders should participate in decisions regarding (1) identification of the research questions; (2) the methodology, data collection, or data analysis; and (3) use or dissemination of the research findings. Because CBPR is an approach to research (and not a methodology or method), quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods may be used, as appropriate, to respond to the research question(s). It is important to note that, as addressed in the Terminologies section, many labels are used to refer to CBPR. Thus, included herein are works labeled as action research, participatory research, community engaged research, and others. The common thread among the cited works is the community-university research partnership. We would like to thank Erin Sirett, PhD, who was a co-author of the first two editions of this annotated bibliography. The 2017 update was supported by the Quebec-SPOR SUPPORT unit, funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. We used the eSRAP© research trends monitoring system, a development of the Quebec-SPOR SUPPORT unit, to identify many of the references included in this update.


There is a very long and varied list of terms used by different countries and different disciplines for various forms of participatory and collaborative research. Cornwall and Jewkes 1995 and Minkler and Wallerstein 2003 provide comprehensive reviews of participatory methodologies and terminologies, with attention to regional differences and critical challenges. In the field of public health, the term “community-based participatory research” (CBPR) is frequently used in the United States, while “action research” appears more frequently in the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Other terms include “participatory research,” “participatory action research,” “emancipatory action research,” “community-partnered research,” “collaborative inquiry,” “participatory rural appraisal,” “participatory health research,” and many, many others. This is particularly relevant when conducting literature searches. Participatory action research, one of the founding approaches of modern participatory research, is explored in Baum, et al. 2006 in relation to the many concepts associated with its use. Ledwith 2007, in describing emancipatory action research, provides an example of how participatory methods have evolved. Key components of all partnered research are the quality of the process, shared goals, and mutual respect of those on the team. With the current emphasis on promoting knowledge translation and increasing the uptake of research results, Graham, et al. 2006 describes how research teams are now applying the partnership principles of CBPR to also include the end users—those who will be using the results—in the research process. The new terms currently emerging in North America include “community engagement,” “citizen engagement,” “public engagement,” “translational science,” “knowledge translation,” “campus-community partnerships,” and “integrated knowledge translation.” Dick 2015 is a companion paper to Coghlan and Brydon-Miller 2014 (cited under Introductory Works) and discusses distinctions and similarities among terms used to refer to various forms of research within the “family” of action research. Trickett and Espino 2004 looks beyond the terms used to consider process, structural, and ethical issues common to all models of collaboration, as well as the limits of collaboration.

  • Baum, Fran, Colin MacDougall, and Danielle Smith. 2006. Participatory action research. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 60.10: 854–857.

    DOI: 10.1136/jech.2004.028662

    This glossary from Australia aims to clarify some of the key concepts associated with participatory action research.

  • Cornwall, Andrea, and Rachel Jewkes. 1995. What is participatory research? Social Science & Medicine 41.12: 1667–1676.

    DOI: 10.1016/0277-9536(95)00127-s

    Although it was written in 1995, this remains an important comprehensive review of participatory methodologies popularized in health research, focusing on issues of control over research process. History of participatory research and its many uses beyond North America and the United Kingdom are addressed. Problematizing “participation,” the authors explore challenges and dilemmas of participatory practice.

  • Dick, Bob. 2015. Reflections on the SAGE encyclopedia of action research and what it says about action research and its methodologies. Action Research 13.4: 431–444.

    DOI: 10.1177/1476750315573593

    Drawing on the 314 entries of the Sage Encyclopedia of Action Research (see Coghlan and Brydon-Miller 2014 under Introductory Works), the author refers to multiple terms used within the family of action research approaches, discussing their subtleties, distinctions across settings and knowledge domains, and also their similarities. The paper provides a good overview of action research and serves as a companion to the Encyclopedia.

  • Graham, Ian D., Jo Logan, Margaret B. Harrison, et al. 2006. Lost in knowledge translation: Time for a map? Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions 26.1: 13–24.

    DOI: 10.1002/chp.47

    Definitions of knowledge translation, knowledge transfer, knowledge exchange, research utilization, implementation, diffusion, and dissemination are clarified. A conceptual framework to describe the knowledge-to-action process is provided, underscoring the importance of identifying relevant stakeholders and cultivating appropriate relationships with them to allow for an exchange of knowledge.

  • Ledwith, Margaret. 2007. On being critical: Uniting theory and practice through emancipatory action research. Educational Action Research 15.4: 597–611.

    DOI: 10.1080/09650790701664021

    Relying heavily on the work of Paulo Freire, Ledwith provides a good overview of how emancipatory action research has evolved as a participatory research method. She draws on her experience in community development in order to explore what being critical means in participatory approaches.

  • Minkler, Meredith, and Nina Wallerstein. 2003. Introduction to community-based participatory research. In Community-based participatory research for health. Edited by Meredith Minkler and Nina Wallerstein, 3–26. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

    An excellent overview of regional differences in terminology, strongly suggesting that it is the core values that carry the greatest importance and not the terminology.

  • Trickett, Edison J., and Susan L. R. Espino. 2004. Collaboration and social inquiry: Multiple meanings of a construct and its role in creating useful and valid knowledge. American Journal of Community Psychology 34.1–2: 1–69.

    DOI: 10.1023/B:AJCP.0000040146.32749.7d

    Monograph provides an overview of the meaning of collaboration and related terms (empowerment, participatory action research, action research, partnership, etc.). Addresses epistemological, pragmatic, and ideological concerns and processes (e.g., trust, roles) common to all collaboration models, with structural (e.g., funding) and ethical (e.g., stigmatizing community) issues. Highlights limits of collaboration. Includes recommendations intended to place collaboration at center of community research and intervention.

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