Are academics irrelevant? Roles for scholars in participatory research

Stoecker, R. (1997). Are academics irrelevant? Roles for scholars in participatory research. American Behavioral Scientist, 42, 840-854.

Interest in participatory research has exploded over the past decade. Academics seem to follow three approaches in participatory research: the initiator, the consultant, and the collaborator. After discussing the approaches, this article argues that doing the research is not a goal in itself but only a means. Participatory research is actually part of a larger community change project that is dependent on four roles: “animator,” community organizer, popular educator, and participatory researcher. Determining how the academic will fit in the project (as initiator, consultant, or collaborator) requires addressing three questions: What is the project trying to do? What are the academic’s skills? and How much participation does the community need or want? The answers to these questions will vary according to how organized the community is.

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