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“It’s a case of access.” The problematics of accessing research participants

The problematics of accessing res participants have been largely under-stated in the education research literature. This article discusses two case studies which illustrate the complexity of the process of access. This is complexity beyond ethical consent; it is the complexity of gaining access to research sites and participants and of ongoing negotiation concerning aspects of access, especially when the stakes are high for participants. In this article we first set out what is already known in the literature about challenges and strategies of access. Next, we evaluate our own experiences of access with others. Our analysis reveals key findings: a) the relevance of insider/outsider status; b) the need to engage in repeated negotiations to obtain the agreement and consent of gatekeepers; c) the value of identifying kaiārahi (guides) and building relationships; d) the importance of understanding organisational culture, power dynamics of relationships and of knowledge production; and e) the significance of operating in a transparent manner around researcher identity and the nature of the specific study. A research plan may be approved as ethical but may not prove to be practical when the researcher tries to enact it, thus necessitating modification. The challenge becomes finding a practice that is ethical for a particular group and context. Lastly, we propose that education researchers who have negotiated the power dynamics to build relationships among kaiārahi, gatekeepers and participants need to communicate their knowledge and experiences of accessing research participants with other researchers.
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Type of thesis
Amundsen, D. L., Msoroka, M. S., & Findsen, B. (2017). ‘It’s a case of access.’ The problematics of accessing research participants. Waikato Journal of Education, 22(4), 5-17. https://doi.org/10.15663/wje.v22i4.425
Wilf Malcolm Institute of Educational Research, Division of Education, University of Waikato
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