Chapter 31: Addressing power differentials and managing egos: how to collect reliable qualitative data when researching ‘elites’
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Research focused on ‘elites’ can be a challenging prospect for graduate students, but it is also a great opportunity to collect valuable qualitative data. The idea of approaching a prominent organisation or government leader is often daunting because of the power differential students may perceive. But academic researchers also have power: to interpret, to analyse, and to use research and publications to influence wider public perceptions about elites’ actions and the impacts of their decisions. This chapter discusses strategies for addressing power differentials when collecting qualitative data. It draws upon first-hand experience of conducting approximately 100 semi-structures in-depth interviews with various elites for the author’s PhD thesis. Including insights about managing elites’ egos and dealing with difficult interview subjects, it also discusses the importance of identifying gatekeepers and corroborating data, before ending with three key lessons designed to overcome the challenges of elites-focused research.

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