Researchers’ Positioning: Insider or Outsider?


  • Xiaolin Xu Memorial University of Newfoundland


The researcher’s role as an insider or outsider has been a controversial issue over the last few decades. There has been a heated debate about how researchers position themselves in the relationship to the groups they are studying. Taking an outsider position is believed to be able to offer a more objective view of the realities, while a researcher with insider insight may better understand a group of people that may not be accessible to an outsider. Post-structuralists and post-modernists, however, argue that researchers are never fully outside or inside the studied community, but rather hold ever-shifting positions. Since the theoretical and empirical perspectives on the insider/outsider issue are closely intertwined, this paper examines the issue by presenting some key theoretical concerns regarding the insider/outsider status and illustrating some of the methodological and ethical issues facing insider and outsider researchers.