Community-academic research on hard-to-reach populations: benefits and challenges

Qual Health Res. 2005 Feb;15(2):263-82. doi: 10.1177/1049732304267752.


In this article, the authors examine some of the benefits and challenges associated with conducting research on hard-to-reach/hidden populations: in this instance, sex workers. The population studied was female and male sex workers working in different sectors of the sex industry in a medium-size Canadian metropolitan area. The authors describe the need for close community-academic cooperation, given the hidden and highly stigmatized nature of the target population that was investigated and the local context in which the research project was embedded. The authors discuss the main benefits and challenges of the research collaboration for the various parties involved, including the community partner organization, indigenous research assistants, and academic research team. They conclude with a discussion of strategies to help overcome the main challenges faced during the research endeavor.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Behavioral Research / methods*
  • Canada
  • Communication
  • Community-Institutional Relations*
  • Cooperative Behavior*
  • Female
  • Health Services Research
  • Humans
  • Interinstitutional Relations*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Organizations, Nonprofit / organization & administration*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sex Work / psychology*
  • Social Alienation / psychology*
  • Stereotyping
  • Universities / organization & administration*
  • Vulnerable Populations / psychology*