Not Now: Negotiating Research Access during Phases of Crisis
The conduct of qualitative research often rests on a fundamental condition: the establishment of research access. Gaining quality research access is a challenge even at the best of times due to the intimacy and timescale of data collection. This challenge becomes even more severe in situations of crises, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, when actors are concerned with maneuvering organizations through tough times. Despite its centrality for the conduct of qualitative research, there is a lack of methodological studies on the establishment of access in management and organization research. Therefore, this article contributes to the methods literature in management and organization research by investigating the enabling conditions of research access in crisis situations. We draw on a comparative case analysis of eight instances of access negotiations conducted during the Covid-19 pandemic. We show how interpersonal trust and perceived value of the research project mitigate the constraining effects of Covid-19, and we also reveal the underlying mechanisms through which trust and perceived value are established. Our findings are of relevance to all researchers seeking research access for qualitative research projects.
Adler, P., Du Gay, P., Morgan, G. & Reed, M. (2016). Introduction: Sociology, social theory, and organization studies, continuing entanglements. In P. Adler, P. Du Gay, G. Morgan & M. Reed (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of sociology, social theory and organization studies (pp. 1–8). Oxford University Press.
Balogun, J., Gleadle, P., Hailey, V. H. & Willmott, H. (2005). Managing change across boundaries: Boundary-shaking practice. British Journal of Management, 16(4), 261–278. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2005.00463.x
Bartunek, J. M., Rynes, S. L. & Ireland, R. D. (2006). What makes management research interesting, and why does it matter? Academy of Management Journal, 49(1), 9–15. doi: 10.2307/20159741
Bell, E. & Willmott, H. (2020). Ethics, politics and embodied imagination in crafting scientific knowledge. Human Relations, 73(10), 1366–1387. doi: 10.1177/0018726719876687
Belmondo, C. & Sargis-Roussel, C. (2015). Negotiating language, meaning and intention: Strategy infrastructure as the outcome of using a strategy tool through transforming strategy objects. British Journal of Management, 26, 90–104. doi: 10.1111/1467-8551.12070
Bergman Rosamond, A., Gammeltoft-Hansen, T., Hamza, M., Hearn, J., Ramasar, V. & Rydström, H. (2020). The case for interdisciplinary crises studies. In Global Discourse: A Developmental Journal of Research in Politics and International Relations. doi: 10.1332/204378920X15802967811683
Bourdieu, P. (2007). Outline of a theory of practice. In B.B. Lawrence & A. Karim (Eds.), On violence: A reader (pp. 189–198). Duke University Press. doi: 10.1515/9780822390169-024
Brannick, T. & Coghlan, D. (2007). In defense of being ‘native’: The case for insider academic research. Organizational Research Methods, 10(1), 59–74. doi: 10.1177/1094428106289253
Bruni, A. (2006). Access as trajectory: Entering the field in organizational ethnography. M@n@gement, 9(3), 137–152. doi: 10.3917/mana.093.0137
Budhwar, P. & Cumming, D. (2020). New directions in management research and communication: Lessons from the COVID-19 Pandemic. British Journal of Management, 31, 441–443 doi: 10.1111/1467-8551.12426
Clarke, I., Kwon, W. & Wodak, R. (2012). A context-sensitive approach to analyzing talk in strategy meetings. British Journal of Management, 23(4), 455–473. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8551.2011.00759.x
Coleman, S. (1996). Obstacles and opportunities in access to professional work organizations for long-term fieldwork: The case of Japanese laboratories. Human Organization, 55(3), 334–343. doi: 10.17730/humo.55.3.l38mh1588247263r
Crowhurst, I. (2013). The fallacy of the instrumental gate? Contextualizing the process of gaining access through gatekeepers. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 16(6), 463–475. doi: 10.1080/13645579.2013.823282
Cunliffe, A. L. & Alcadipani, R. (2016). The politics of access in fieldwork. Organizational Research Methods, 19(4), 535–561. doi: 10.1177/1094428116639134
Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2008). Introduction: The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry (pp. 1–43). Sage Publications.
Eisenhardt, K. M. (1989). Building theories from case study research. The Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532–550. doi: 10.2307/258557
Eisenhardt, K. M. & Graebner, M. E. (2007). Theory building from cases: Opportunities and challenges. Academy of Management Journal, 50(1), 25–32. doi: 10.5465/amj.2007.24160888
Fjellström, D. & Guttormsen, D. S. A. (2016). A critical exploration of ‘access’ in qualitative international business field research. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 11(2), 110–126. doi: 10.1108/QROM-05-2014-1225
Fox, J. C. & Lundman, R. J. (1974). Problems and strategies in gaining research access in police organizations. Criminology, 12(1), 52–69. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1974.tb00620.x
Friesl, M. & Silberzahn, R. (2017). Managerial coordination challenges in the alignment of capabilities and new subsidiary charters in MNEs. Organization Studies, 38(12), 1709–1731. doi: 10.1177/0170840617693271
Gioia, D. A., Corley, K. G. & Hamilton, A. L. (2013). Seeking qualitative rigor in inductive research. Organizational Research Methods, 16(1), 15–31. doi: 10.1177/1094428112452151
Guba, E. G. & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 191–215). Sage.
Habersang, S., Küberling-Jost, J., Reihlen, M. & Seckler, C. (2019). A process perspective on organizational failure: A qualitative meta- analysis. Journal of Management Studies, 56(1), 19–56. doi :10.1111/joms.12341
Harrington, B. (2003). The social psychology of access in ethnographic research. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 32(5), 592–625. doi: 10.1177/0891241603255677
Irvine, H. & Gaffikin, M. (2006). Getting in, getting on and getting out: Reflections on a qualitative research project. Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, 19(1), 115–145. doi: 10.1108/09513570610651920
Jack, S. L. (2005). The role, use and activation of strong and weak network ties: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Management Studies, 42(6), 1233–1259. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.2005.00540.x
Jack, S. L & Anderson, A. R. (2002). The effects of embeddedness on the entrepreneurial process. Journal of Business Venturing, 17(5), 467–487. doi: 10.1016/S0883-9026(01)00076-3
Jarzabkowski, P. & Wilson, D. C. (2002). Top teams and strategy in a UK university. Journal of Management Studies, 39(3), 355–381. doi: 10.1111/1467-6486.00296
Johnson, P., Buehring, A., Cassell, C. & Symon, G. (2007). Defining qualitative management research: An empirical investigation. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 2(1), 23–42. doi: 10.1108/17465640710749108
Karjalainen, M., Niemistö, C. & Hearn, J. (2015). Unpacking the problem of research access(es). Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 10(3), 274–293. doi: 10.1108/QROM-12-2013-1189
Kern, T. & Pruisken, I. (2018). Was ist ein religiöser Markt? Zum Wandel der religiösen Konkurrenz in den USA. Zeitschrift Für Soziologie, 47(1), 29–45. doi: 10.1515/ZFSOZ-2018-1002
Langley, A. (1999). Strategies for theorizing from process data. Academy of Management Review, 24(4), 691–710. doi: 10.2307/259349
Langley, A. & Abdallah, C. (2011). Templates and turns in qualitative studies of strategy and management. In D. D. Berg (Ed.), Research methodology in strategy and management. Building methodological bridges (Vol. 6, pp. 201–235). Emerald Group Publishing Limited. doi: 10.1108/S1479-8387(2011)0000006007
Laurila, J. (1997). Promoting research access and informant rapport in corporate settings: Notes from research on a crisis company. Scandinavian Journal of Management, 13(4), 407–418. doi: 10.1016/S0956-5221(97)00026-2
Maitlis, S. (2005). The social processes of organizational sensemaking. Academy of Management Journal, 48(1), 21–49. doi: 10.2307/20159639
Mander, R. (1992). Seeking approval for research access: The gatekeeper’s role in facilitating a study of the care of the relinquishing mother. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 17(12), 1460–1464. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2648.1992.tb02818.x
Michailova, S., Piekkari, R., Plakoyiannaki, E., Ritvala, T., Mihailova, I. & Salmi, A. (2014). Breaking the silence about exiting fieldwork: A relational approach and its implications for theorizing. Academy of Management Review, 39(2), 138–161. doi: 10.5465/amr.2011.0403
Morgan, D. H. J. (2009). Acquaintances: The space between intimates and strangers. Sociology and social change. Open University Press. http://site.ebrary.com/lib/academiccompletetitles/home.action
Morgan, G. & Smircich, L. (1980). The case for qualitative research. The Academy of Management Review, 5(4), 491–500. doi: 10.2307/257453
Nemeth, C., Brown, K. & Rogers, J. (2001). Devil’s advocate versus authentic dissent: Stimulating quality and quantity. European Journal of Social Psychology, 31, 707–720. doi: 10.1002/ejsp.58
Okumus, F., Altinay, L. & Roper, A. (2007). Gaining access for research. Annals of Tourism Research, 34(1), 7–26. doi: 10.1016/j.annals.2006.07.006
Orlikowski, W. J. & Scott, S. V. (2008). Sociomateriality: Challenging the separation of technology, work and organization. The Academy of Management Annals, 2(1), 433–474. doi: 10.1080/19416520802211644
Ostrander, S. A. (1993). ‘Surely you’re not in this just to be helpful’. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 22(1), 7–27. doi: 10.1177/089124193022001002
Peticca-Harris, A., deGama, N. & Elias, S. R. S. T. A. (2016). A dynamic process model for finding informants and gaining access in qualitative research. Organizational Research Methods, 19(3), 376–401. doi: 10.1177/1094428116629218
Pettigrew, A. M. (1990). Longitudinal field research on change: Theory and practice. Organization Science, 1(3), 267–292. doi: 10.1287/orsc.1.3.267
Pratt, M. G. (2009). From the editors: For the lack of a boilerplate: Tips on writing up (and reviewing) qualitative research. Academy of Management Journal, 52(5), 856–862. doi: 10.5465/amj.2009.44632557
Roesch-Marsh, A., Gadda, A. & Smith, D. (2012). ‘It’s a tricky business!’: The impact of identity work in negotiating research access. Qualitative Social Work: Research and Practice, 11(3), 249–265. doi: 10.1177/1473325011400486
Romei, V. (2020a). European economy faces ‘long and bumby’ recovery: Improvement in sentiment fuels optimism but activity data still depressed. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/d6bd1769-e13b-4eed-a960-09afe38035bd
Romei, V. (2020b). UK economy shrinks by record 20% in April: Coronavirus pandemic leads to huge GDP decline after steep fall in previous month. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/f25dc58b-32c9-499d-af66-f677f20c53a2
Rynes, S. & Gephart, R. P. (2004). From the editors: Qualitative research and the ‘Academy of Management Journal’. Academy of Management Journal, 47(4), 454–462. doi: 10.5465/amj.2004.14438580
Sanday, P. R. (1979). The ethnographic paradigm(s). Administrative Science Quarterly, 24(4). doi: 10.2307/2392359
Strauss, D., Cocco, F. & Bruce-Lockhart, C. (2020). German economy shrank 10.1% at height of virus crisis: Contraction illustrates recovery challenge faced by Europe’s largest economy. Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/e0ff6130-ad2e-4172-bb5d-eed739361d62
Symon, G. & Cassell, C. (2014). Promoting new research practices in organizational research. In C. Cassel & G. Symon (Eds.), Essential guide to qualitative methods in organizational research (pp. 1–10). Sage.
Taylor, S. & Land, C. (2014). Organizational anonymity and the negotiation of research access. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal, 9(2), 98–109. doi: 10.1108/QROM-10-2012-1104
Van de Ven, A. H. & Huber, G. P. (1990). Longitudinal field research methods for studying processes of organizational change. Organization Science, 1(3), 213–219. doi: 10.1287/orsc.1.3.213
Weick, K. E. (1988). Enacted sensemaking in crisis situations. Journal of Management Studies, 25(4), 305–317. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-6486.1988.tb00039.x.
Whittle, A., Mueller, F., Lenney, P. & Gilchrist, A. (2014). Interest-talk as access-talk: How interests are displayed, made and down-played in management research. British Journal of Management, 25(3), 607–628. doi: 10.1111/1467-8551.12021
Yeager, P. C. & Kram, K. E. (1990). Fielding hot topics in cool settings: The study of corporate ethics. Qualitative Sociology, 13(2), 127–148. doi: 10.1007/BF00989683
Zhang, L. E. & Guttormsen, D. S. A. (2016). ‘Multiculturality’ as a key methodological challenge during in-depth interviewing in international business research. Cross Cultural & Strategic Management, 23(2), 232–256. doi: 10.1108/CCSM-07-2014-0084
Copyright (c) 2022 Martin Friesl, Erik Hanel, Vivienne Konuk
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.
Authors retain copyright of their work, with first publication rights granted to the AIMS.