The challenges of being an insider in storytelling research
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The challenges of being an insider in storytelling research

Stacy Blythe PhD candidate, School of Nursing & Midwifery, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, New South Wales, Australia
Lesley Wilkes Director of clinical nursing research, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, New South Wales, Australia
Debra Jackson Professor, Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, University of Technology, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Elizabeth Halcomb Associate professor, University of Western Sydney, Penrith, New South Wales, Australia

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.

Nurse Researcher. 21, 1, 8-12. doi: 10.7748/nr2013.


Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Received: 31 May 2012

Accepted: 08 October 2012

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