Field research with underserved minorities: The ideal and the real

Arlene Rubin Stiffman, Stacey Freedenthal, Emily Ostmann, Patricia Hibbeler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


The realities of doing field research with high-risk, minority, or indigenous populations may be quite different than the guidelines presented in research training. There are overlapping and competing demands created by cultural and research imperatives. A National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)-funded study of American Indian youth illustrates competing pressures between research objectives and cultural sensitivity. This account of the problems that were confronted and the attempts made to resolve them will hopefully fill a needed gap in the research literature and serve as a thought-provoking example for other researchers. This study built cross-cultural bridges. Researchers worked as a team with stakeholders to modify the instruments and methods to achieve cultural appropriateness. The researchers agreed to the communities' demands for increased service access and rights of refusal for all publications and presentations. Data indicate that these compromises did not substantially harm the first year of data collection completeness or the well-being of the youth. To the contrary, it enhanced the ability to disseminate results to those community leaders with the most vested interests. The conflicts between ideal research requirements and cultural demands confronted by the researchers and interviewers in the American Indian community were not necessarily different from issues faced by researchers in other communities. Of major import is the recognition that there are no easy answers to such issues within research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)iii56-iii66
JournalJournal of Urban Health
Issue numberSUPPL. 3
StatePublished - Jun 2005


  • Adolescent research
  • American Indian
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Underserved minorities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Urban Studies
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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