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A Researcher's Guide to Community Engaged Research: What is CEnR?

This guide is meant to be a first stop for researchers who are trying to learn about and implement community engagement in their work, and includes how-to-guides and other resources, as well as key concepts and a useful glossary of terms.


What is CEnR?

This guide is an introduction to Community Engaged Research (CEnR), which is defined by the WK Kellogg Community Health Scholars Program as "begin[ning] with a research topic of importance to the community, [and] having] the aim of combining knowledge with action and achieving social change to improve health outcomes and eliminate health disparities."

Here at the Clinical and Translational Science Institute's Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERI), Duke faculty and staff work with researchers and community members to develop relationships, improve research, and create better health outcomes in our communities, particularly for historically disadvantaged groups of people.

This guide provides resources targeted toward researchers who are looking to learn more about CEnR and implement it in their work, and includes resources about two key concepts in CEnR: cultural competence/humility and plain language.

Diagram Note: Outreach is a preparatory step that does not formally constitute community engagement. 

Foundational Principles

Principles of Community Engagement 

(Developed by the NIH, CDC, ATSDR, and CTSA)

  • Be clear about the purposes of engagement and the populations you wish to engage
  • Become knowledgeable about the community
  • Establish relationships
  • Collective self-determination is the responsibility and right of the community
  • Partnering is necessary to create change and improve health
  • Recognize and respect the diversity of the community
  • Mobilize community assets and develop community capacity to take action
  • Release control of actions and be flexible to meet changing needs
  • Collaboration requires long-term commitment


For more information, please consult: 

How-To Guides, Manuals, and Toolkits

Community Involvement in Research

What does community-engaged research look like?

  • Community stakeholders on project steering committees and other deliberative and decision-making bodies
  • Community advisory boards
  • Compensation for the community's time and other contributions
  • Dissemination of results back out to the community
  • Takes time! 

What community-engaged research is NOT: 

  • Focus groups or interviews
  • A research methodology
  • A bolt-on
  • A one-size fits all approach
  • Appropriate for all research
  • Recruitment of minority research participants
  • A relinquishing of all insight or control by researchers

Key Concept: Cultural Competence and Cultural Humility

Key Concept: Plain Language

Contact Us

For More Information

The CTSI Community Engaged Research Initiative (CERI) facilitates equitable, authentic, and robust community-engaged research to improve health. Contact CERI if you are a Duke researcher who wants more information about CEnR or to access CERI's services, which include consultation services and community studios, community partnerships and coalitions, and CEnR education and training.

For more information about the resources in this guide, contact Leatrice Martin (