This article outlines key features of participatory appraisal methods and reports on a reconnaissance of their application to Alaska village sanitation issues. Characteristics of participatory research applicable to research on village sanitation project planning include collaborative versus extractive information gathering, emphasis on strong initial contacts that promote mutual learning and respect between villagers and outsiders, and flexibility in choice of methodology. The findings of this study suggest that participatory research approaches can yield useful information about and for communities, and can help develop related research questions on, for example, the history of human organization and cultural traditions that can contribute to designing sanitation projects. This information can be obtained through a mutually acceptable research design, which is significant in light of the moratorium on outside-initiated research sought by leading Native groups. Facilitating community capacity to generate such information would be a directly useful application of a participatory appraisal research approach.

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