Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes



Social Research Glossary

About Researching the Real World



© Lee Harvey 2012–2019

Page updated 25 January, 2019

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2019, Researching the Real World, available at
All rights belong to author.


A Guide to Methodology

3. Observation

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Aspects
3.3 Methodological approaches
3.4 Access

3.4.1 Introduction
3.4.2 Negotiating with gatekeepers
3.4.3 Insider status
3.4.4 Continuing negotiation of access
3.4.5 The interrelationship of access negotiation and data collection

3.5 Recording data
3.6 Analysing observational or ethnographic data
3.7 Summary

3.4 Access

3.4.3 Insider status
In some circumstances, the researcher has an insider status that makes access much easier. As was noted above (Section Holdaway (1983) was a policeman before he started his research on policing, Hobbs (1988) was familiar with the East End of London that he studied and many of the Chicago School sociologists of the 1930s were participant observers in their own ethnic minority communities. Monder Ram had an insider status that made possible his research on ethnic minority small businesses.

Getting into small companies with a view to undertaking qualitative research over a long period of time is extremely difficult. Securing the consent of notoriously hard-pressed employers to enter the workplace and generally observe and participate in day-to-day shop-floor life over an extended period of time is an onerous undertaking…[However] Monder was an insider by virtue of his ethnicity and detailed knowledge of the clothing industry, as well as coming from a respected family in the local Asian community which has been immersed in the clothing sector for many years. In fact company A is Monder's own family's business. In this way he almost automatically took on an 'insider' field role … Yet, despite these connections, it was always recognized that his purpose in the field was to conduct research, not full-time work, hence even in his own family's business, Monder [did not become]… so immersed in the field that critical analysis becomes almost impossible. (Ram and Holliday, 1993, pp. 632–33)


Next 3.4.4 Continuing negotiation of access