The challenges of insider research in educational institutions: wielding a double-edged sword and resolving delicate dilemmas
journal contributionposted on 2009-09-09, 14:03 authored by Justine Mercer
This paper explores the challenges faced by educational researchers investigating the places where they work. It reviews the literature on insider research and draws upon the author's own experience of researching faculty appraisal at two Higher Education institutions where she taught. It argues that the insider/outsider dichotomy is actually a continuum with multiple dimensions, and that all researchers constantly move back and forth along a number of axes, depending upon time, location, participants and topic. The assumption that one kind of research is better than the other is challenged, and the advantages and disadvantages of insider research are discussed in terms of access, intrusiveness, familiarity and rapport. Finally, three dilemmas relating to informant bias, reciprocity in interviews, and research ethics are examined from an insider researcher's perspective, and the ways in which the author responded to these dilemmas at different points in her own four-year two-site study are critiqued.