This paper presents a detailed description of the applied methodology used to study collective action in natural resource management (NRM). Data were collected in 48 villages in northeastern Burkina Faso, at the community, institutional, household and market levels. The paper first discusses the analytical framework underlying the study of collective action, and then describes in detail the methods used to measure collective action and community-level cooperative capacity, and the determinants of cooperative capacity. We also describe data collection methods as well as potential problems in eliciting unbiased information. The impact of cooperative capacity on a variety of outcomes observed at both the community and household level is then presented in order to highlight practical applications.