Reflecting on ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ positionality when undertaking culturally sensitive research with young Pakistani men: insights from a female researcher
Evidence and practice    

Reflecting on ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ positionality when undertaking culturally sensitive research with young Pakistani men: insights from a female researcher

Noureen Asif Shivji Research associate: health services research, School of Medicine, Keele University School of Medicine, Newcastle-Under-Lyme, Staffordshire, England
Oonagh Meade Postdoctoral researcher and honorary research lecturer, Psychology, National University of Ireland Galway, Galway, Ireland
Kim Watts Director, Kim Watts Consultancy, Nottingham, England
Joanne S Lymn Professor and head of school, School of Health Sciences, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To gain insight into the position of the female researcher when conducting research into male experiences

  • To understand the conduct of research on a sensitive cultural subject through insider and outsider perspectives

  • To use the tools and strategies required to achieve desirable outcomes when conducting research on a sensitive topic

Background Conducting culturally sensitive research into male experiences can be challenging for female researchers. Despite this, there are very few published reflective accounts of how they have overcome these difficulties.

Aim To illustrate a female researcher’s challenges in conducting research into young men’s experiences of puberty in Pakistan and highlight the strategies used to overcome these.

Discussion An important challenge for the researcher was creating an environment in which participants felt able to share their experiences. This was overcome by the incorporation of the experiences of public involvement contributors in the development of the project, offering a choice of interview format to participants and other solutions driven by the ‘insider’ position of the researcher. The researcher’s ‘outsider’ role as a mature and pregnant woman appeared to create a ‘safe’ environment, allowing the young men to openly share their personal experiences.

Conclusion Female researchers can successfully conduct culturally sensitive research with young men in patriarchal societies such as Pakistan. The key is to be aware of potential cultural issues and to use any insider/outsider positionality to the greatest effect.

Implications for practice In addition to adapting procedures, such as gaining trust, building rapport and assuring a non-judgemental and comfortable environment, the ‘outsider’ position of the female researcher should be given due consideration when undertaking culturally sensitive research with men.

Nurse Researcher. 30, 2, 24-29. doi: 10.7748/nr.2022.e1826


Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None declared


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