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Meanings of ‘Community’

Community Meanings

A meta-narrative review of conceptualisations and meanings of ‘community’ within and across research traditions

Start Date:  March 2011   End Date:  Oct 2011   Status: Completed

Background:

Policy and academic interest in the concept of ‘community’ is longstanding and such interest has become central to policy making in the last two decades. The notion of community is, however, a slippery concept. There is great diversity in the meaning of ‘communities’ which is very rarely explicitly acknowledged, harnessed or studied. In order to shed light on the various conceptualisations and meanings of community across disciplines, over time, and within different cultures and contexts, we will apply a meta-narrative review approach. A meta-narrative review (Greenhalgh et al, 2005) is a type of ‘systematic’ review rather than a traditional expert driven literature review and will ensure a rigorous, explicit and novel treatment of the literature. It is a new review method that has been developed as a systematic way to synthesise diverse types of literature with a focus on identifying the ‘storylines of research’ within and across disciplinary boundaries. This approach will enable us to systematically review research and theoretical work within and across disciplines distilling not just the similarities and differences of perspectives within each tradition (e.g. sociology, psychology, health, geography) but also across these, identifying key dimensions of communities common to each tradition and analyse how these compare. It will enable us to identify the meta-narratives of each discipline and to analyse the different ‘discourses’ and languages of ‘community’.

Aims:

The project explored the following questions:
  • “How have ‘communities’ been conceptualised, evolved and treated in research within and across research traditions?”
  • How have these changed over time? How do the values and identities ascribed to communities across disciplines change?
  • What is known about discourses around ‘communities’ within and across disciplines?
  • How do discourses around ‘communities’ differ across different disciplines, if at all?

Method:

We conducted a systematic review based on a meta-narrative review approach (Greenhalgh et al, 2005). This is a type of ‘systematic’ review rather than a traditional expert driven literature review and will ensure a rigorous, explicit and novel treatment of the literature. It is a new review method that has been developed as a systematic way to synthesise diverse types of literature with a focus on identifying the ‘storylines of research’ within and across disciplinary boundaries. This approach enabled us to systematically review research and theoretical work within and across disciplines distilling not just the similarities and differences of perspectives within each tradition (e.g. sociology, psychology, health, geography) but also across these, identifying key dimensions of communities common to each tradition and analyse how these compare.

Main Findings:

Impact: 

We published a journal article with reflections about the methodology adopted. This is available on:

Jamal F, Bertotti M, Lorenc T, Harden A (2013) ‘Reviewing conceptualisations of community: reflections on a meta-narrative approach’ Qualitative Research, DOI: 10.1177/1468794113509262

We were also invited to join a ‘community of practice’ of researchers taking a meta-narrative or realist approach to reviewing by the developer of the meta-narrative review, Professor Trisha Greenhalgh. This community of practice is being set up as part of funding (subject to contract) she has received from the NIHR Service Delivery and Organisation programme to meet the challenges of these new approaches to reviewing

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Project Lead:

Dr Marcello Bertotti

Project Team:  Marcello Bertotti, Farah Jamal, Angela Harden, Kevin Sheridan, Gail Barrow-Guevara, Lori Atim

Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - Connected Communities programme

Report: Download (PDF)

For more information, contact: Dr Marcello Bertotti – m.bertotti@uel.ac.uk