This paper reports on part of a wider study concerned with the collaborative efforts of an inquirer and six people with an intellectual disability, to develop a grounded theory explaining the processes by which these informants manage the relationships within their personal communities. The study was conducted through a series of in-depth interviews with each informant; a process characterised by information sharing, tentative theory development and elaboration, and informants' checking the accuracy of the emerging theory. This inductive approach allowed not only an insight into the lives of each informant, but recognised the informants' expertise in matters concerning their own lives and thus facilitated the emergence of theoretical elements of relevance to the informants themselves. The focus of the paper is on the collaborative or partnership approach adopted. The outcomes of the research partnership are detailed and implications drawn for the role of research in the lifestyles of people with an intellectual disability. Copyright © 1999 Taylor & Francis Ltd.