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Prog Community Health Partnersh. 2011 Winter;5(4):443-51.

Using the critical incident technique in community-based participatory research: a case study.

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  • 1Institute for Health Policy Studies, University of California, San Francisco, CA, USA.



Successful community-based participatory research involves the community partner in every step of the research process. The primary study for this paper took place in rural, Northern California. Collaborative partners included an academic researcher and two community based resource centers that provide supportive services to people diagnosed with cancer.


This paper describes our use of the Critical Incident Technique (CIT) to conduct Community-based Participatory Research. We ask: Did the CIT facilitate or impede the active engagement of the community in all steps of the study process?


We identified factors about the Critical Incident Technique that were either barriers or facilitators to involving the community partner in every step of the research process.


Facilitators included the CIT's ability to accommodate involvement from a large spectrum of the community, its flexible design, and its personal approach. Barriers to community engagement included training required to conduct interviews, depth of interview probes, and time required. Overall, our academic-community partners felt that our use of the CIT facilitated community involvement in our Community-Based Participatory Research Project, where we used it to formally document the forces promoting and inhibiting successful achievement of community aims.

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