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Research Methods for Community Change

Everyone is a member of a community, and every community is continually changing. To successfully manage that change, community members need information. Research Methods for Community Change: A Project-Based Approach is an in-depth review of all of the research methods that communities use to solve problems, develop their resources, and protect their identities.

With an engaging, friendly style and numerous real world examples, author Randy Stoecker shows readers how to use a project-based research model in the community. The four features of the model are

* Diagnosing a community condition
* Prescribing an intervention for the condition
* Implementing the prescription
* Evaluating its impact

At every stage of this model there are research tasks, from needs and assets assessments at the diagnosis stage to process and outcome studies at the evaluation stage. Readers will also learn the importance of involving community members at every stage of the project and in every aspect of the research, making the research part of the community-building process.

Research Methods for Community Change is perfectly suited as a text for undergraduate and graduate research methods courses across the social sciences, including sociology, social work, and public health. Community service workers, professional researchers, and consultants will also find this an invaluable guide to effecting change in their communities.

"At last! A concise, insightful and highly useful book on research methods for community action and social change. Drawing from his own rich experiences as well as from broader literature and examples, Stoecker demonstrates that valuable research is not the monopoly of professional researchers, but can be used by people anywhere as a tool for organizing and developing their communities.  Highly readable, grounded in analysis, and full of practical approaches, this book will be an important resource for activists, students, scholars, policy makers and community development practitioners who seek to use research for more effective and sustainable change."
—John Gaventa, Fellow, Institute for Development Studies, Sussex, U.K.

"Drawing from his own experiences and from case studies from across the nation, Stoecker offers an empowering and remarkably accessible discussion of how project-based research models build community and democracy by redistributing both power and responsibility. It is an informative and valuable text that makes a convincing case that research must become daily practice for all who are committed to working for effective social change."
—Stephen L. Fisher, Director, Appalachian Center for Community Service, Emory & Henry College

"Stoecker's highly readable book is a great leap forward in expanding the definition and practice of research and documentation through collaboration between academics and community activists. He makes project-based research accessible to readers through lively, real examples that involve creative and strategic use of sources and resources. Stoecker shows how good quality research can make meaningful differences in people's lives. The book is perfect for use in both classrooms and nonprofit organizations."
—Kathleen Staudt, University of Texas at El Paso

"At last, a book that demystifies research for both novice and experienced community workers who want to make a difference. Randy Stoecker presents a refreshingly innovative and accessible challenge to more conventional texts."
—Linda Briskman, Associate Professor of Social Work, RMIT University, Australia

1. "But I Don't Do Research"
"But I Don't Do Research"

"So What Is Research?"

"Okay, So I Do Research Already. Why Do I Need to Learn About It?"

"I'm Already Running Full-Out Managing Our Programs. How Can I Do More Research Too?"

"I'm Still Not Convinced. But Just In Case, Where Do I Start?"

"So Where Do I and My Community Fit In?"

Conclusion and Coming Attractions

The Goose Story



2. The Goose Approach to Research
Have You Ever Felt Like an Interloper?

Participatory Approaches to Research

A Participatory Approach to Project-Based Research

Building Participatory Relationships: The Researcher Side

Building Participatory Relationships: The Community Side

Loose Gravel




3. Head and Hand Together: A Project-Based Research Model
The Head and Hand Split

From Head and Hand to Research and Action

Of Programs and Projects

The Project Model: Diagnose, Prescribe, Implement, Evaluate

The Project Model and Participatory Flexibility

Where Are You In the Project Cycle?

Loose Gravel




4. Diagnosing
How to Survive on a Deserted Island

The Impetus for Diagnosis

Structures for a Diagnostic Process: The Core Group

Strategies for a Diagnostic Process: Problems and Opportunities

The Problems Approach: Needs Assessment

The Opportunities Approach: Asset Mapping

Of Needs and Resources

Loose Gravel




5. Prescribing: Researching Options
Which Way Should You Go From Here?

Inward-Looking vs. Outward-Looking Social Change: Services and Policies

A Planning Approach

The Special Case of Policy Prescriptions

Loose Gravel




6. Implementing: When Research Is the Project
Making Who-ville Heard

Research as Action

Community Research

Target Research

Loose Gravel




7. Evaluation
Back to the Future, or Messing With the Space-Time Continuum

Choices in Evaluation

Participatory Evaluation From the Beginning

Participatory Evaluation as an Integrated Process

Loose Gravel




8. Beyond Information: Research as an Organizational Lifestyle
The Montessori, Goose Approach, Popular Education, Tennis Coach Model of Project-Based Research

The Project-Based Research Cycle Revisited

Role Models for Research as a Daily Practice

Behind the Fun: Information Management and Information Technology

Loose Gravel: Information Myths and Monsters

In Conclusion


Appendix A: Strategic Planning
Appendix B: Research Ethics
Appendix C: Writing Proposals
Appendix D: Data Resources
About the Author

This text is relevant for the needs of career audiences within the classroom who have differing backgrounds and professional goals.

Dr Marie Steichen
Landscape Arch Cmty Plan Dept, Kansas State University
January 29, 2013

Excellent Text for Urban Planning!

Dr J. Rosie Tighe
Geography Planning Dept, Appalachian State University
March 14, 2011

This text was ideal for my community-based resarch course. It serves as a good complement to more traditional qualitative methods books, which provide the "how-tos" of doing research. I was looking for something that would help broaden students' understanding of traditional research paradigms and also demonstrate the ways in which research can be instrumental in social change efforts.

Dr Sandra Richards Mayo
Center for California Cultural and Social Issues (CCCSI), Pitzer College
March 23, 2010

Great book... used for my research methods class last semester

Dr Joyce Mandell
Urban Studies Dept, Worcester State College
March 6, 2010
Key features
  • This book shows how the research can be interwoven with the community change project itself.
  • The book uses many examples to show how different communities move through the project-based research model, and do research at each stage.
  • Those involved in community change projects can even use the book to better understand what stage of the project-based cycle they are in, so that they can make informed, strategic choices.

Sage College Publishing

You can purchase this book and request an instructor sample on our US College site:

Go To College Site

This title is also available on SAGE Research Methods, the ultimate digital methods library. If your library doesn’t have access, ask your librarian to start a trial.