This paper is concerned with processes of international enquiry. It focuses upon the relationship between a research problem and access to conduct research in a country. It uses data from an ethnographic study of primary education in a Northern Indian District. Conceptually drawing upon the insider-outsider debate within the sociology of knowledge, the paper raises issues about the relationship between the research problem, accessing knowledge and being an outsider to a research setting. It considers problems facing a particular form of outsider—a foreigner. The paper maintains that when researchers who are outsiders embark on designing research in non-western international educational settings, then questions considering the relationship between the research problem, access strategies and the culture of the research setting are vital. Grappling with such questions allows for the development and promotion of new forms of partnership, alongside a deeper understanding of culture and context, when developing comparative and international research policy agendas.