Questioning the Meaningfulness of Rigour in Community-Based Research: Navigating a Dilemma

Bethan C. Kingsley, Sherry Ann Chapman


As community-based research (CBR) continues to emerge, CBR practitioners are beginning to ask, “How do we know if we are doing CBR well?” For some, this question may bring to mind the concept of rigour. Yet, how meaningful is rigour among diverse CBR partners from community, government, and academia? Using an exploratory approach, we engaged in dialogue a group of seven CBR practitioners from diverse contexts and asked the question, “Is rigour a meaningful concept in CBR?” We used interpretive description to analyse the interview and guide the application of findings in CBR practice. The findings are presented as three themes: Obligation, Representation, and Turn to Action. Participants expressed a sense of obligation to meet often competing expectations to do CBR well. The fulfillment of one obligation sometimes meant compromising another, thus presenting a dilemma to CBR practitioners. Representation outlines participants’ beliefs that some obligations can be met through the analysis, interpretation, and carefully contextualized presentation of research findings on behalf of CBR partnerships. In Turn to Action, participants described their desire to participate in the co-construction of understanding and identified a need to conceptualize the meaning of doing CBR well. We recommend that practitioners of CBR continue to form communities of practice in which to engage in dialogue about rigour; together, we can navigate the identified dilemma and collaboratively construct what it means to do CBR well. Specifically, we recommend that communities of CBR practice strive to: (a) be transparent during CBR collaboration, (b) be in dialogue with other CBR practitioners, and (c) co-construct the meaning of doing CBR well.

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