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Research Methods for Community Change

Research Methods for Community Change
A Project-Based Approach

Second Edition

February 2012 | 304 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc

Everyone is a member of a community, and every community is continually changing. To successfully manage that change, community members need information. This book is an in-depth review of all of the research methods that communities can use to solve problems, develop their resources, protect their identities, and build power. With an engaging writing style and numerous real world examples, Randy Stoecker shows how to use a project-based research model in the community to diagnose a community condition, prescribe an intervention for the condition, implement the prescription, and evaluate its impact. At every stage of this model there are research tasks, from needs and assets assessments to process and outcome studies. Readers also learn the importance of involving community members at every stage of the project and in every aspect of the research.

Chapter 1. "But I Don't . . ."
Chapter 2. The Goose Approach to Research
Chapter 3. The Community Development Context of Research
Chapter 4. Head and Hand Together: A Project-Based Research Model
Chapter 5. Diagnosing
Chapter 6. Prescribing: Researching Options
Chapter 7. Implementing: When Research Is the Project
Chapter 8. Evaluation
Chapter 9. Beyond Information
Appendix A. Strategic Planning
Appendix B. Research Ethics and the Institutional Review Board
Appendix C. Writing Proposals
Appendix D. Data Resources

“In its community-based focus and careful attention to the micro, inter-group and institutional dynamics of project centered research in and with communities, this text stands alone. I am not aware of another text that provides such an in-depth framework and rationale for community-centered research practice, as well as grounded details and guidance on the opportunities and challenges in integrating research more effectively and equitably through the different stages of the project cycle.”

C. Clare Hinrichs
Pennsylvania State University


'Research Methods for Community Change is a valuable text for undergraduate and graduate students alike. Readers seeking to understand new directions in social science research generally, or embark on their own community-based research will be well served by the mix of theory and practice, real-world examples, and student-friendly tone. [...] He is to be praised for offering a means for the next generation to engage in the communities in which they live, rather than remain holed up in a computer lab somewhere, trying in vain to find meaningful correlations instead of simply asking more meaningful and community-informed questions'

Johannes Wheeldon
LSE Review of Books

I chose this "textbook" because it is the "BEST FIT" for my teaching philosophy and practice involving project based learning through community focused action research projects by criminal justice, social work and gerontology students, all of whom take a common research methods course in their junior year titled "Research Methods for the Human Services."

Mr Christopher Dunn
Criminal Justice Program, Bowling Green State University
September 26, 2014

PSY 4339: Seminar in Community Psychology integrates applied research knowledge.

Dr Dawn Henderson
Psychological Sciences, Winston-Salem State University
August 20, 2014

Excellent description of community based research. Great insights into the challenges of doing community research and working in academia.

Bruce Deforge
Social Work Dept, Univ Of Maryland Baltimore
May 1, 2014

Focus too narrow for my course, i.e., not the best fit for an introductory social work research course. Great supplement to other texts for students interested in community-based research.

Dr Wendy Hulko
Social Work, Thompson Rivers Univ
July 11, 2013

I did not formally adopt, but have recommended it to students interested in PAR and community-based programming/research

Ms Caryn Saxon
Criminology & Criminal Justice , Missouri State University
May 5, 2013

Book is aligned with the most current issues facing community change and allows for class discussion based on topic areas highlighted in book.

Dr Lason Hines
School Of Architecture, Prairie View A & M University
April 22, 2013

Good basic overview of participatory action research and approaches to conducting research with communities.

Dr Wendy Griswold
Landscape Arch Cmty Plan Dept, Kansas State University
March 29, 2013

Currently using this text, excellent for the class of international development and economic development graduate students.

Dr Faith Ngunjiri
Campolo College of Graduate and Professional Studies, Eastern University
February 3, 2013
Key features


  • Demonstrates how the research can be integral to the change project itself, from the early identification of an issue through evaluation of an intervention's impacts
  • Offers rich examples of the project-based research model, with examples from community theater, geographic information systems, activist research, and social research used by community workers
  • Provides an assessment tool for those involved in community change projects, so that they understand what stage of the project-based cycle they are in and can make strategic choices


  • Includes a new Chapter 3 on community development and research, helping researchers understand community development processes so that their research can be more useful
  • Provides new start-to-finish applications of the model to actual projects, showing readers how it works in practice

A lot has happened in the five years since this book was first published, and a lot has stayed the same. I changed institutions, going from a low-ranked open enrollment university in a decimated rust-belt town to a high-ranked research university in a vibrant state capitol. I've brought my past five years of experience and knowledge into the book, reflecting on the most recent effective projects out there, and my learnings from my new mentors in Wisconsin and elsewhere. My journey along this path as an academic trying to practice effective community engagement is, after all, five years older than it was when the first edition of this volume came out. Finally, it is important for you the reader to know that I am composing this second edition in the midst of the most powerful political upheaval in my conscious lifetime. In February of 2011 the newly elected governor of Wisconsin, along with the new state legislature—all controlled by Republicans—started ramrodding a series of right-wing bills through the statehouse. The most incendiary of those bills was one that would reduce the state budget by cutting the benefits of state workers and practically eliminating public employee unions. The legislation produced an uprising that led to thousands of people occupying the capitol for a three-week period, tens of thousands of people marching in the streets, thousands of people across the state with petitions to recall state senators, and a string of court cases that currently has stopped the legislation from taking effect. In the midst of this uproar, which we expect to continue yet for months, I am revising this book about using participatory action research in communities. And I have been witnessing countless examples of such research as students and other activists researched how to keep the capitol occupied, conduct successful recall campaigns, and block legislation that would roll back Wisconsin's progressive tradition by a century. So you will see some of my consequently raised consciousness and much deeper understanding of the power dimensions of the research process in these pages. You will also see the influence in some of the art in the book. My niece, Eden Raduege, is a skilled anime artist, and attended a number of the demonstrations here in Madison. I commissioned her for the art at the beginning of each chapter, drawing on both her own rising consciousness and her graphic design talents.

Sample Materials & Chapters


Chapter 1

Chapter 3

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