I’m just reading Joseph A. Maxwell’s text, “Qualitative Research Design” (2005, p. 82, SAGE) and awaiting his 2012 edition that is on pre-order (June 12 release).

“The relationships that you create with participants in your study, (and also with others, sometimes called ‘gatekeepers,” who can facilitate or interfere with your study) are an essential part of your methods, and how you initiate and negotiate these relationships is a key design decision.”

I just want to focus on the reference to gatekeepers. The gatekeeper you approach may help you gain access for your study or may make life difficult. Similarly in sales, it is often necessary to go through a gatekeeper (including reception, office administrator, etc.) in order to reach the decision maker. The gatekeeper is seen as one necessary to get through–a potential obstacle in a telephone call or personal visit. But, it is that person whose interest must be attracted and addressed. Perhaps some more research prior to the contact, including trying to understand who the gatekeeper might be, could be an interesting approach.

I am a licensed insurance broker (life, accident & sickness), operating as Ratcliffe Wealth & Risk Management in Alberta, Canada. While I do not do very much in the way of direct prospecting, this quote has given me a thought to share with others.

Bringing this back to my development as a researcher, through a PhD programme, I need to keep the quote in mind. In a recent contact with head of a large organization, one of his office staff directed me to a senior administrator whom had an interest in research and would likely be the one to make it happen or not. This resulted in a very pleasant two-hour meeting and tentative indication of interest. The head might (or might not) be involved in a final decision, but the groundwork would be done.

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