Accessing participants in qualitative research is often one of the most difficult aspects of the research process. It is also one of the least written about in research methodology. In our research project: The socio-cultural and learning experiences of working class students in Higher Education, accessing students has been particularly difficult; given the main focus is on working class students, this fact takes on a certain poignancy. However, adopting a reflective approach to the access process we were able to capitalise on the challenges we were confronted with. In so doing we have been able to demonstrate that this is not merely a mechanical, albeit necessary, research task but in fact this process enabled us to gain insights into: the structure and organisation and systems of the institutions involved; and the attitudes of the heads of department, tutors and admissions tutors, all personnel who are key to the learning experiences of the students we are researching. Their display of a range of attitudes, towards us as ‘outsiders’, alerted us to think about the students’ own first impressions, and the kinds of reception they encountered on first going to university. Also, significantly, it has raised issues about institutional monitoring of working class student admissions and the institutions’ widening participation strategy and policy in particular.
|Building Research Capacity
|Published - Jun 2007