Researching With

A Decolonizing Approach to Community-Based Action Research


Many community health interventions fail, wasting tax dollars and human resources. These interventions are typically designed by subject matter experts who don’t have direct experience with the local community. In contrast, successful interventions are built from the ground up, planned and implemented by the people that will benefit from them, using community-based action research. Researching With: A Decolonizing Approach to Community-Based Action Research is a guide for how to do research that is inclusive, engages in community-building, and implements a decolonizing framework. This text advocates for a collaborative approach, researching with communities, rather than conducting research on them. Reviewing both theory and method, Jessica Smartt Gullion and Abigail Tilton offer practical tips for forming community partnerships and building coalitions. Researching With also includes helpful information about incorporating community work into a successful academic career. This book can be used as supplemental or primary reading in courses in sociology, social work, health research, nursing, public health, qualitative inquiry, and research methods, and is also of value to individual researchers and graduate students writing their thesis.

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Chapter 1 Community Health
Chapter 2 Decolonizing Research
Chapter 3 Doing Community-Based Action Research
Chapter 4 Research Ethics
Chapter 5 Getting the Message Out
Jessica Smartt Gullion, PhD (2002), Texas Woman's University, is Associate Dean of Research for the College of Arts and Sciences and Associate Professor of Sociology at Texas Woman's University. She has written extensively on community health and ethnography. Her most recent books include Diffractive Ethnography: Social Science and the Ontological Turn (Routledge, 2018) and Writing Ethnography (Sense Publishers, 2015).
Abigail Tilton, PhD (2006), University of North Texas, is Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences and Associate Professor of Social Work at Texas Woman's University. Her research interests include child and family welfare, foster care, and women’s leadership development.
“Though there are many books on community-based action research (CBAR), Gullion and Tilton have provided an indispensable volume for researchers who are deeply concerned with social justice, equity, and collaborative methods to solve problems that matter to members of underserved communities. Combining both a participatory approach and a decolonizing world view, they map out the characteristics and issues of CBAR, what constitutes decolonizing research, methods for doing CBAR, especially with underrepresented groups, and an essential chapter on public scholarship approaches to dissemination, all viewed through the lens of public health (arguably a primary tool of the colonizer). Written in accessible language with tons of illustrative and anecdotal examples yet grounded in the historical and current literature, this book provides a theoretical and practical guide for both student researchers or researchers who want to interrogate their own privilege, positionality, and inherited colonial frames of reference regardless of their areas of research interest.” – Rosemary Reilly, PhD, CCFE, Professor of Applied Human Sciences at Concordia University
“A much-anticipated text that elevates people and communities and bridges the gap between research theory and practice. Using decolonization as a theoretical framework, Gullion and Tilton explore how relationality can be used to solve community problems. Interrogating scientistic, Western standards in research is a central theme in this book. Yet, the authors offer practical, Indigenous knowledge-centered solutions to community-based action research that are integral in addressing power and privilege within the research process from the researcher’s positionality to the methods used to collect and disseminate data. Adding to the current literature on social justice-centered scholarship, Gullion and Tilton offer tools to help researchers explore their own path in decolonizing knowledges in their research process. This book is a must read for any scholar doing human subjects research and should be required reading for graduate students doing social science research.” – Sheila Bustillos, PhD, Director for Strategic Initiatives at the Texas Center for Child and Family Services
“Drs. Gullion and Tilton have applied their experience and expertise to dig deeper into social justice within diverse groups and their interactions. Meticulously peeling away layers of implicit bias, barriers to feminism, paternalistic cultural norms—they guide an in-depth discussion of the undercurrents of bias in community conversations. Objective analysis is important, and this work forces objectivity while educating the reader on hidden motivations that can hinder progress in community organizing. This material is rich in research, and requires much of the reader. The destination is worth the journey: a better understanding of why we see our world the way we do and recognize our biased eyes.” – Matt Richardson, DrPH, MPH, FACHE, Director of Public Health, Denton County Public Health
“This book validates the critical impact of stakeholder involvement for successful development of community-based projects. It should be read by every person that sits on a grant giving board. Implementing the critical steps of stakeholder engagement would improve the success rate of community-based projects.” – Dian Jordan, PhD, Senior Lecturer at the University of Texas Permian Basin, and Visiting Curator, Museum of the Red River
Researching With: A Decolonizing Approach to Community-Based Action Research is a significant and long-overdue contribution to the research methodology literature. It incorporates a deeply-embedded respect for communities and applies the Boyer Model as an inclusive framework for recognizing knowledge. Gullion and Tilton present a persuasive and thought-provoking approach based on decades of research practice that will engage both new and experienced researchers.” – Lisa Zottarelli, PhD, Sociology Professor and SACSCOC Liaison, San Antonio College

 Organization of the Text
 Our Backgrounds

Chapter 1. Community Health
 Understanding Community-Based Action Research
 Issues to Consider
 Public Academics
 The Slow Professor
 The Boyer Model

Chapter 2. Decolonizing Research
 Colonization of Knowledge
 Indigenous Research
 Honoring Culture
 Sacred Knowledge
 Black Feminist Methodology
 The Neoliberal Agenda and the Politics of Knowledge
 Other Considerations

Chapter 3. Doing Community-Based Action Research
 Epistemic Privilege
 Top-Down Solutions Often Fail
 Your Role as Researcher
 Finding Projects
 Gather a Group of Like Minded People
 Define the Goals
 Mapping the Problem and Collecting Data
 Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
 Conflict Management
 When People Don't Want to Participate

Chapter 4. Research Ethics
 Procedural Ethics
 Situational Ethics
 Relational Ethics

Chapter 5. Getting the Message Out
 The Problem with Academic Journals
 Telling the Story
 Writing in Accessible Language
 Don't Feed the Trolls
 Working with the Media
 Putting Action into Action Research


Appendix A
 A Pedagogical Approach to Action Research


About the Authors
This book is intended for advanced undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty who are interested in working with local communities. It can be used as a supplemental or primary text in courses in sociology, social work, health research, nursing, public health, qualitative inquiry, and research methods.
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