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Accessing the community: gaining insider perspectives from the outside

Sixsmith, Judith, Boneham, Margaret and Goldring, John E. (2003) Accessing the community: gaining insider perspectives from the outside. Qualitative health research, 13 (4). pp. 578-589. ISSN 1552-7557

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Accessing participants for research projects is often treated as unproblematic. However the experience outlined here of negotiating access to participants within a community setting illustrates the inherent difficulties of recruitment. The authors describe the techniques used and practical challenges faced when accessing participants within a socially deprived community for a qualitative research project on social capital. They used a number of different strategies to generate a diverse sample including advertising, snowballing, accessing gatekeepers, and street surveys. The value of a stakeholder analysis is described alongside issues surrounding the use of gatekeepers. Rather than acting as outsiders seeking participants at every available opportunity, a more fortuitous strategy involved the ethnographic approach of "being there" as active contributors to community life. Here, the cornerstones of credibility and trust were addressed in a process of continually negotiating access from a semi-insider position.

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