Reeves, Carla (2010) A difficult negotiation: fieldwork relations with gatekeepers. Qualitative Research, 10 (3). pp. 315-331. ISSN 1468-7941

This paper explores the challenges the researcher faced when undertaking ethnographic fieldwork within a Probation Approved Premises. How access to research sites is achieved is increasingly being discussed, particularly in ethnographic accounts. These discussions often focus on the practical and ethical challenges of entering fieldwork sites. In contrast, how researchers leave study populations or sites is rarely explored, although perhaps as complex and sensitive to negotiate as access.

This paper reflects upon the practical, ethical and emotional dilemmas experienced by the author when conducting research with sex offenders and staff in a probation hostel. The focus of the paper is on how access was gained and how the site and the people who took part in the research were left at the end of the fieldwork. Key issues include: formal and informal gatekeepers to study sites, participants and forms of data; rapport; attachment to researchers and; deciding when to end fieldwork. Issues of gender are alluded to in this paper, but will not be focussed on as they will be dealt with in detail elsewhere. It is concluded that negotiating access is different to gaining entry to a research site, and that these negotiations include considerations of the relationship between the researcher, the research and the researched.

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