The challenges of being an insider in storytelling research

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Abstract

Aim

To describe the challenges related to being an ‘insider’ researcher in a study that uses a feminist-informed storytelling research design and to discuss practical strategies to manage these challenges.

Background

The positioning of the researcher in qualitative research has numerous methodological implications. Often, qualitative researchers share similar experiences or characteristics with their participants. Such an ‘insider’ position provides challenges for the researcher in conducting the research. Understanding these challenges and planning how to manage them is beneficial for the researcher and for the conduct of the project.

Data sources

This paper is based on the research team's experience of undertaking a feminist-informed storytelling study exploring the experiences of Australian women providing long-term foster care.

Review methods

This paper provides a discussion of the methodology used in the investigation.

Discussion

Four challenges resulting from the insider status of the primary researcher were identified as affecting the research: assumed understanding, ensuring analytic objectivity, dealing with emotions and participants' expectations. Strategies to address these challenges include: ‘participant probing’, ‘researcher reflexivity’, review by an ‘outsider’ researcher, identifying the risk, debriefing, making the aims and use of study outcomes clear, and acknowledging participants' expectations. Methods to implement these strategies are described.

Conclusion

The use of an insider researcher was beneficial to our study design and helped with recruitment and rapport, enabling collaboration and the generation of stories rich in content. By identifying the challenges associated with insider research and using strategies to mitigate them, researchers can effectively use an insider position in conjunction with a storytelling research design.

Implications for future research/practice

Further investigation of the insider in different qualitative research designs would be useful in identifying challenges and benefits specific to those designs.

Cite this article as: Blythe S, Wilkes L, Jackson D, Halcomb E (2013) The challenges of being an insider in storytelling research. Nurse Researcher. 21, 1, 8-13.

Date of submission: May 31 2012. Date of acceptance: October 8 2012.

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