Inside-out: cultural insiders as informants in outsider qualitative fieldwork

Lorraine Marie Cowley, Felicity Kelliher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Purpose: To document our experiences as female non-native researchers carrying out qualitative research in another country (Bahrain), and to reflect on our interactions with cultural insiders (CIs) as informants in this qualitative study. CIs share cultural commonalities such as language, social background and culture and are considered accepted members of the local community. Design/methodology/approach: Two Bahraini academics were recruited as CIs for a qualitative research study and informant data was collected through face-to-face unstructured interviews over a period of 16 months. Data analysis involved manual and NVivo analytical processes. Findings: Research findings derived three main themes: perceptions relating to the research participant interview template, views on collaboration in Bahrain, and research practicalities. CI engagement offered an opportunity to get fresh perspectives and insights that ultimately informed and improved the standard of research practice. Research limitations/implications: As knowledge is subjective, multidimensional and partial, the inclusion of CIs offers a greater opportunity to capture true meaning within the data. Through close proximity to the research context, CIs can share pivotal social insights on the design of interview instruments and process, and on member checking and findings. However, CIs come with their own experiences and views of their community, a recognised limitation in this study. Practical implications: A CI research protocol, designed to set boundaries and document the steps involved in CI engagement offers a process that may be replicated or adapted in future research and ensures parameters are observed for all parties and affords the security of insider counsel where and when needed. Originality/value: The methodological approach of incorporating CIs as informants from the Middle East, is novel in management research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalQualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 02 Mar 2023


  • Bahrain
  • Cultural insiders
  • Middle East
  • Outsider researcher
  • Qualitative research


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