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Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

Offers detailed guidance on how to develop, organize, and write a college-level research paper in the social and behavioral sciences.

UNDER COMSTRUCTION

THE CONTENTS OF THIS PAGE ARE CURRENTLY UNDER CONSTRUCTION

Definition

Insiderness is an approach to conducting research in which the researcher is located within the setting where they are gathering and analyzing information. The insider researcher is an individual who is a member of the group, organization, or community where they are conducting the study and, as such, can be assumed to have greater access to information than a researcher who is external to the research setting. Although the concept of insiderness is applied primarily to qualitative methods of observation, interviews, and other techniques of gathering information, an insider researcher can also be positioned to gather quantitative forms of data within the research setting.


Labaree, Robert V. "The Risk of ‘Going Observationalist’: Negotiating the Hidden Dilemmas of Being an Insider Participant Observer." Qualitative Research 2 (April 2002): 97-122.

Advantages and Disadvantages

In the social and behavioral sciences, it is assumed that an insider researcher has greater access to information because they possess a deeper understanding of the setting in which they are conducting the research. For example, a teacher studying the impact of standardized testing on the well-being of minority students at the high school where they work should already have the advantage of, for example, preceding knowledge about the school's student support culture, access to classrooms to observe students, and working relationships with school administrators, counselors, parents, and students. A researcher who is not an employee of the school would have to negotiate and maintain this level of access in order to conduct their study.

If you are conducting insider research [e.g., the organization where you are an intern; the community where you are studying abroad for a semester], you must describe how your position as an insider facilitated access to information, places, objects, or other elements of the research setting and, conversely, how you managed your insiderness in such a way to avoid unintentional bias, misuse of personal data, and potentially false conclusions. With this in mind, here is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of being an insider researcher that should be described in the methods section.

ADVANTAGES

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DISADVANTAGES

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Labaree, Robert V. "The Risk of ‘Going Observationalist’: Negotiating the Hidden Dilemmas of Being an Insider Participant Observer." Qualitative Research 2 (April 2002): 97-122; Chavez, Christina. "Conceptualizing from the Inside: Advantages, Complications, and Demands on Insider Positionality." The Qualitative Report 13 (February 2008): 474-494; Collins, Heidi and Yvonne McNulty. "Insider Status:(Re) Framing Researcher Positionality in International Human Resource Management Studies." German Journal of Human Resource Management 34 (2020): 202-227; Irgil, Ezgi. "Broadening the Positionality in Migration Studies: Assigned Insider Category." Migration Studies (2020): https://doi.org/10.1093/migration/mnaa016; Kanuha, Valli Kalei. "“Being” Native Versus “Going Native”: Conducting Social Work Research as an Insider." Social Work 45 (October 2000): 439-447; Mercer, Justine. "The Challenges of Insider Research in Educational Institutions: Wielding a Double‐edged Sword and Resolving Delicate Dilemmas." Oxford Review of Education 33 (February 2007): 1-17; Savvides, Nicola, Joanna Al-Youssef, Mindy Colin, and Cecilia Garrido. "Journeys into Inner/Outer Space: Reflections on the Methodological Challenges of Negotiating Insider/Outsider Status in International Educational Research." Research in Comparative and International Education 9 (2014): 412-425.

Structure and Writing Style

The amount of details describing your status as an insider depends on how embedded you were in the research setting and, as a result, the level of access you had to people, documents, and/or data relevant to studying the research problem. The level of details also depends on the amount of time you were involved in researching the setting. For example, documenting your observations of people's interactions in an organization during a couple of meetings will not require as much detail as spending an entire semester abroad conducting insider research. Regardless of your level of embeddedness in the research setting, you should describe the following aspects of being an insider in the methodology section of your paper:

a. reason you designed the study this way; why did you choose your research setting versus another setting in which you are not an insider; describe whether you chose to reveal yourself as a researcher or remained silent; note that convenience is not justification!

b. how you presented yourself transitioning from a member of a group, organization, or community to a researcher; how did you negotiate this and were there any limits placed on access to people, places, or things.

c. the ways in which this position was advantageous in gathering the information needed to study the research problem; if applicable, document the sources you were able to access that would otherwise be unavailable to an outsider

d. any problems you encountered in terms of access; note that insiderness is not universal but depends on your position within the organization--as a student, your access will likely not be as comprehensive as an member of the organization or community as a leader or has been in the setting a long time

e. how you controlled for unintentional bias; this includes describing any ethical dilemmas you encountered....

 

NOTE: While the details about your status as an insider researcher should be described in the methodology section of your paper, you must first present yourself as an insider researcher in the introduction of your paper as part of the overall description of your study.


Labaree, Robert V. "The Risk of ‘Going Observationalist’: Negotiating the Hidden Dilemmas of Being an Insider Participant Observer." Qualitative Research 2 (April 2002): 97-122; Chavez, Christina. "Conceptualizing from the Inside: Advantages, Complications, and Demands on Insider Positionality." The Qualitative Report 13 (February 2008): 474-494; Collins, Heidi and Yvonne McNulty. "Insider Status:(Re) Framing Researcher Positionality in International Human Resource Management Studies." German Journal of Human Resource Management 34 (2020): 202-227; Irgil, Ezgi. "Broadening the Positionality in Migration Studies: Assigned Insider Category." Migration Studies (2020): https://doi.org/10.1093/migration/mnaa016; Kanuha, Valli Kalei. "“Being” Native Versus “Going Native”: Conducting Social Work Research as an Insider." Social Work 45 (October 2000): 439-447; Mercer, Justine. "The Challenges of Insider Research in Educational Institutions: Wielding a Double‐edged Sword and Resolving Delicate Dilemmas." Oxford Review of Education 33 (February 2007): 1-17; Savvides, Nicola, Joanna Al-Youssef, Mindy Colin, and Cecilia Garrido. "Journeys into Inner/Outer Space: Reflections on the Methodological Challenges of Negotiating Insider/Outsider Status in International Educational Research." Research in Comparative and International Education 9 (2014): 412-425.