Strategies of community engagement in research: Definitions and classifications

Vetta L.Sanders Thompson, Nicole Ackermann, Kyla L. Bauer, Deborah J. Bowen, Melody S. Goodman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Engagement activities are defined along a continuum that analyzes and represents nonacademic stakeholder activities and interactions with academic researchers. Proposed continua begin with none to limited stakeholder inclusion and input into research and continue with descriptions of increasing presence, input, and participation in decision-making. Despite some agreement in the literature, development of consistent terminology and definitions has been recommended to promote the common understanding of strategies in engaged research. This paper sought to develop and understand classifications and definitions of community-engaged research that can serve as the foundation of a measure of engaged research that permits comparisons among engagement strategies and the outcomes that they produce in health-and healthcare-related research studies. Data on academic and stakeholder perceptions and understandings of classifications and definitions were obtained using Delphi process (N = 19) via online and face-to-face survey and cognitive response interviews (N = 16). Participants suggested the need for more nuanced understanding of engagement along portions of the continuum, with active involvement and decision-making as engagement progressed. Cognitive interview responses suggested that outreach and education is a more advanced level of engagement than previously discussed in the literature and viewed consultation negatively because it required work without guaranteeing community benefit. It is possible to define a continuum of patient-and community-engaged research that is understood and accepted by both academic researchers and community members. However, future research should revisit the understanding and depiction of the strategies that are to be used in measure development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-451
Number of pages11
JournalTranslational Behavioral Medicine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2021


  • Community-based participatory research
  • Community-engaged research
  • community engagement
  • patient engagement
  • patient-engaged research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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