Study Circles

Study Circles

Study Circles are small groups of approximately seven to twelve patients/public partners that meet multiple times for discussions about a decision around the research process (e.g. “What outcomes should be looked at in the research?” “How do we interpret the research findings?”, etc.). The meeting processes combine dialogue (including storytelling) and deliberation. The meetings are structured in a way that the subsequent sessions build on discussions from the previous sessions. The groups of patients/public partners should be inclusive and open to diverse perspectives.


Three Main Elements:

1.  Organizing that brings individuals to the table: patient/public partners work with researchers to design the Study Circle process, set goals (including what research decisions will be made in the group discussions), and plan a launch that includes diverse communities in dialogue. Patient/public partners can be trained to facilitate and support Study Circle discussion groups.

2.  The dialogue over several session: several small groups of patients/public partners gather for the purpose of discussing the research decision, and what matters most to them.

3.  Movement from dialogue to collaborative action: conversations lead to concrete ideas and actions around the research project (e.g. “These are the priority areas we would like researched", "These are the outcomes we would like to be investigated”, and "This is how we interpret the research findings”). Research teams that include patients/public partners, health policy makers, health care professionals, health decision makers and health researchers can work together to put the decisions made from the Study Circles into action.


Study Circles can be useful for:

  • Bringing together patients/public partners with diverse perspectives and experiential knowledge to collaboratively make a decision around the research process.
  • Enabling many different geographically diverse groups to work in their own time on the same research decision.
  • Encouraging group learning and sharing around a research topic, building community capacity to explore possible research questions.


 Additional Resources:

1. What Works: Study Circles in the Real World