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Negotiating access into firms: obstacles and strategies

By Sam Laryea and Will Hughes


Researchers often experience difficulties with the negotiation of access into firms for the purpose of data collection. The question we explore is: What are the main obstacles associated with access negotiation into firms; and what strategies do researchers employ to increase their chances of success? Our research work on the tendering process of contractors took place between 2006 and 2008. We successfully negotiated access into four firms (two each in Ghana and the UK) to observe live examples of tender preparation The techniques we employed in negotiating access were personal contacts, contacting firms through online details and professional institutions, etc. With all of this effort, our average success rate was less than 5 per cent. The main obstacles encountered were firms’ reluctance because of commercial sensitiveness and fear that the data could eventually be divulged to their competitors or end up in the public domain. However, some firms agreed mainly because of the written assurances of confidentiality and anonymity in reporting the study; reputation of the researchers’ academic institution; gatekeepers who spoke to their colleagues on our behalf; academic purpose of the study; and a feedback report which was promised in return for access to the case studies. Although the access through personal contacts is by far the easiest, it is not always possible. Researchers can approach firms as complete strangers, especially in a foreign country, and that could make the firms more likely to assist the research

Year: 2011
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