Considerations for relational research methods for use in Indigenous contexts: implications for sustainable development

Marcellus F. Mbah, Megan Bailey, Ayesha Shingruf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has oftentimes been carried out in Indigenous communities for the sole benefit of the western researcher. As a result, feelings of distrust toward researchers and research institutions have become prevalent among Indigenous peoples. However, this distrust can be resolved through the use of research approaches and methods that reflect Indigenous perspectives, beliefs, and values and that centre the entire research process on the Indigenous community in question and their need for sustainable development. One such Indigenous research approach is rooted in relationality, whereby all living things and the natural world have a shared history and future. In this article, we explore the use of relational methods in research with Indigenous communities to decolonise the research process and capture Indigenous experiences using an inherently Indigenous approach. A systematic review of the extant literature to identify the key characteristics of relational methods used when conducting research with Indigenous peoples was conducted for the period 2012 to 2021. Five key characteristics of relational methods stood out, namely: collaboration, trusting and reciprocal relationships, flexibility, relational data, and reflexivity. These findings are discussed in the context of postcolonial theory and considerations for researching sustainable development in Indigenous communities.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 6 Mar 2023


  • Decolonisation
  • indigenous
  • relational methods
  • relationality
  • sustainable development

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences(all)


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