From ‘intimate-insider’ to ‘relative-outsider’: An autoethnographic account of undertaking social work research in one’s own ‘backyard’.

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Purpose: This article explores the challenges of being simultaneously ‘intimate insider’ and ‘relative outsider’ whilst undertaking an ethnography into a statutory child protection team. As a novice researcher seeking to explore a world of which he was already part, ethnography was considered the most suitable means for exploring child protection social workers’ discretion. However, by subscribing to binary notions of ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ at the commencement of the study, the Author underplayed the dilemma of reconciling friendships with his researcher role, as well as the barriers that his more junior organisational status could create.
Design/Methodology/Approach: This article provides an autoethnographic account of these challenges, and the Author’s evolving status and movement between ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ relative to different groups within the children’s services department.
Findings: The implications include the potential for being simultaneously ‘insider’ and ‘outsider’ when undertaking research within one’s employing organisation; the need to reconcile challenging social work tasks with researcher responsibilities; and the difficulty of maintaining pre-existing relationships, whilst also cultivating an objective research profile.
Originality: The paper offers an important contribution to the limited accounts of conducting research from ‘inside’ a statutory children’s services department and will be of benefit to early career researchers considering a research project within their own ‘backyard’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Children's Services
Early online date3 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2023


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