SAGE Journal Articles
SAGE journal articles and other additional readings have been carefully selected by the author to accompany each chapter. Click on the following links. Please note these will open in a new window.
At the same time that research tells us of empirical conditions, the process of conducting research illuminates underlying social conditions as well. By considering the differing approaches necessary in multiple research sites, this article argues that access, as a continually negotiated process, reflects localized socially embedded conditions and practices. From the initial access the researcher has to a site, to the repeated negotiations necessary to remain in the field, this article demonstrates that the researcher must be constantly aware of, and respond to, these conditions and practices if he or she wishes to remain in a particular setting. Based on a broader study of minority children in two different communities in Japan, this article also considers the approaches taken to minority issues as a contributing factor in accessing field sites. Finally, it argues that the process of research should be considered in conjunction with the empirical outcomes of research.
Gaining access in fieldwork is crucial to the success of research, and may often be problematic because it involves working in complex social situations. This article examines the intricacies of access, conceptualizing it as a fluid, temporal, and political process that requires sensitivity to social issues and to potential ethical choices faced by both researchers and organization members. Our contribution lies in offering ways in which researchers can reflexively negotiate the challenges of access by (a) underscoring the complex and relational nature of access by conceptualizing three relational perspectives – instrumental, transactional, and relational – proposing the latter as a strategy for developing a diplomatic sensitivity to the politics of access; (b) explicating the political, ethical, and emergent nature of access by framing it as an ongoing process of immersion, backstage dramas, and deception; and (c) offering a number of relational micropractices to help researchers negotiate the complexities of access. We illustrate the challenges of gaining and maintaining access through examples from the literature and from Rafael’s attempts to gain access to carry out fieldwork in a police force.
Establishing contacts and gaining permission to conduct ethnographic or qualitative research can be time-consuming and stressful processes. Gaining access can be especially challenging when representatives of prospective research sites see their work as being sensitive and would prefer to avoid outside scrutiny altogether. One result of this dynamic is that many organizations that exert a profound influence in governing populations and regulating individuals’ access to basic needs are relatively invisible to the public and shielded from meaningful public accountability. Therefore, it is vital to effectively study secretive or guarded organizations and fill out the empirical record, which in turn could create the conditions for greater public awareness and debate. To that end, this paper draws on our collective research experience and the scholarship of others to present nine strategies that we have found to be especially effective for securing access to secretive organizations.