3.2 The implications of being an outsider researcher
If you position yourself as an outsider researcher,you have the advantage of bringing a fresh perspective to your data collection. Participants may appreciate being asked about their experiences and may be reassured by the confidentiality you can offer. A disadvantage may be the time taken to gain permission to undertake the research, unfamiliarity with the sociocultural context and, crucially, the time taken to build up trust.
Think again about Case study 1.2, where the researcher interested in researching orphaned children in sub-Saharan Africa was an ‘outsider’ from the Global North. This situation reflects inequalities of economic power. As the researcher was not familiar with the local languages or cultural norms, some ethical sensitivities may have been missed. The researcher may have decided to work with local partners and to amend the research to align with what was practical and ethical.
You will learn more about the ethics of working with partners on international research later in this course.
Later in the session and in the course you will hear further reflections on positionality and context in research from current researchers.
Activity 5 What do you think? Share your research ideas on the forum
Imagine Bill Gates needs your help to set up a research project on an important global issue relevant for all humanity. There is a big budget.
In preparation for making a further course forum post, identify a context with which you are familiar in which you could carry out globally important research. Identity one or two topics you think would be important to research linked to this context. Clarify for yourself what your positionality would be to that context if you were to lead this research.
- In the Activity 5 Part C thread in the course forum, post a summary of one of the topics you would want to research, where it might take place and why you think it is important. You can also explain your positionality to the research if you were to take the lead on researching this topic. The post should be no longer than 100 words. Be careful not to identify the context, any individuals or organisations.
- Read the posts of other learners on the course about their ideas for globally important research. It would be great to respond to one or two posts, but remember that it will only be your original post (which needs to be in response to the parent post) which will count towards your digital badge.