Publication Date



Open access

Embargo Period


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Sociology (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense


First Committee Member

John W. Murphy

Second Committee Member

Linda Liska Belgrave

Third Committee Member

Scotney D. Evans


An integrative analysis is presented of positivism, shared epistemology, and the final emerging alternative: community-based participatory action research (CBPAR). The analysis includes how each philosophy defines, views, and analyzes a community. While overcoming the drawbacks to adopting social indicator analyses to study social life, CBPAR provides a strategy that uses collaboration, empowerment, and participatory democracy to engage communities. As part of this investigation, other shared epistemologies such as symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, and previous community-based methods are considered. CBPAR studies have had significant impact on public policy, so much so that communities sometimes “improvements” that they have wanted or needed because a collaborative process was not pursued. Accordingly, as is discussed in this thesis, CBPAR researchers should be trained properly and provided with the resources and skills necessary to be successful at collaborating with communities, or research and planning will not be community-based. But as CBPAR gains respect and recognition, this approach to conducting social research, and creating and evaluating interventions, will no longer be an emerging alternative, but rather a way for all communities that have been marginalized or forgotten to be heard and change their current situations.


community-based; participatory; action research