Community-Based Research Modules

This Community Based Research project is a bundled set of experiential learning themed adaptable eLearning modules with complete scope that develops foundational skills in community-based research. The content within these modules is aimed at 2nd or 3rd year university students and aims to introduce users to the theory and practices of community-based research. The modules are meant to provide a foundation for students pursuing community-based research in senior-level capstone courses, or graduate school. Our goal was to use an innovative pedagogical approach that will provide this content in a bundled and online manner targeted at an undergraduate level.

These modules introduce principles and practices for community-based research. Our overall approach in the modules is to do research that puts community interests first. Links to modules can be found below.

The modules, licensed under the Creative Commons (CC BY 4.0), may be shared as a short course, or to supplement curriculum materials within other courses.


Unit 1: What is community?

In this unit, we examine what we mean by “community,” including which organizations represent communities, and how to responsibly engage as a researcher with community organizations.

Unit 2: What is "community-based research"?

This unit discusses how community-based research is community-driven. It is conducted in, with, and by communities and involves partners from community-based organizations, students, faculty, funders, decision-makers, and community-campus engagement brokers. Key principles of community-based research include that it be relevant, equitable, and action-oriented. It should bring about mutual benefits to all partners involved.


Community Questions

Unit 1: Understanding Community Need

In this unit, we discuss where community research ideas can come from, ways to understand and interpret community ideas, and ways to make sure you’re doing research projects that work for everybody.

Unit 2: Partners in a Partnership

This unit introduces the types of partners that can work together on community-based research projects. We learn that, when diverse people work together, power differences need to be recognized and addressed throughout a project. We also look at the needs and roles of these partners, and some of the challenges in putting community needs first.



Unit 1: Negotiating roles and responsibilities

In this unit, we discuss ideas for developing and nurturing partnerships. We will look at the diverse resources and knowledge that partners can bring to a project, the steps involved in assessing research readiness, the difference between equitable and equal, and how responsibilities and rights are negotiated.

Unit 2: Community-based research with Indigenous communities

In this unit, we consider research with Indigenous communities, including the principles of Respect, Relationships, Relevance, Reciprocity, and Responsibility. We also discuss expectations for working ethically with Indigenous communities.



Unit 1: An overview of research approaches

This unit discusses research approaches for working with community partners. You will learn that developing clear, focused research questions guides the research approach—qualitative, quantitative, or mixed method; the design of your project, and the data you collect. You learned that time, money, and other resources limit what you can accomplish. Considering these things will help you develop a do-able research project focused on gathering information to inform the needs of a community.

Unit 2: Qualitative Methods in community-based research

In this unit on qualitative research, we look at collecting qualitative data through interviews and focus groups, and the strengths and limitations of using a qualitative approach in your research project. We discuss how qualitative research provides an in-depth understanding of a topic. There are also other approaches you can use to collect data, such as observation and photovoice. Before deciding how you will collect your data collection, you need to understand how it will answer your research question and what conclusions you can and cannot draw from the data you will collect.

Unit 3: Quantitative Methods in community-based research

In this unit on quantitative research, we look at collecting quantitative data, including tips for developing a social survey, and strengths and limitations of using quantitative methods for answering your research questions.


Data Analysis

Unit 1: Data analysis and interpretation

In this unit, we introduce the basics of qualitative and quantitative data analysis and interpretation. The purpose of data analysis is to organize, summarize and describe the data that has been collected and, second, to draw conclusions or findings. Large amounts of qualitative data can be reduced to key themes or concepts while quantitative data can be summarized statistically and used to test hypotheses or propositions. This unit is only a short introduction to a complex topic. You will need to continue your independent learning about data analysis.

Unit 2: Quality & Rigour

Rigour is the practice of doing research well, from designing your project, to collecting and analyzing data, to interpreting your findings. It deals with the things you do so you can trust your work and know that your research findings are of good quality. But quality is a trickier concept when it comes to community-based research. We will discuss strategies to help you do rigourous, high-quality community-based research.​



Unit 1: Power and privilege in research

This unit discusses how researchers can work with people and communities who might be marginalized. You will learn about some characteristics of marginalized communities, ideas for building on existing strengths in these community, and practices for engaging people from marginalized communities in research.

Unit 2: Navigating institutional research ethics

This unit examines the benefits and risks of research, key principles that guide research ethics, components of a research ethics proposal, and some thoughts on the ethical conduct of community-based research.


Project Management

Unit 1: Basic Project Management

This unit examines aspects of managing a community-based research project, including monitoring time lines, work plans, milestones, budgets, and keeping the team on track.

Unit 2: Working in Groups

This unit discusses why team work is important, the importance of clear roles and responsibilities, and what it means to work as part of a team to achieve research project goals. You will learn why teamwork is important, what teamwork looks like in community-based research, and how to overcome challenges when working in a group.

Unit 3: Negotiating Change and Challenges

In this unit, you will learn ideas for dealing with potential challenges before they come up, changes in focus and ideas, and new knowledge, all which could impact your project. Documenting project changes and challenges can help you grow as a researcher. Sharing the lessons you learn can help other student researchers with their own work.


Community-based natural resource management in Haliburton

Two students who completed a project with Abbey Gardens in Haliburton share their experiences and insight with their community-based research project. The community partner also describes their experience with the case.




Community-based research for community sustainability planning in Peterborough

A student who completed a study of the Harper Park watershed for their community partner, Peterborough GreenUP, describes their project and experience. Project hosts at GreenUP also share their perspective.




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