Negotiating access to participants poses challenges for all social research, but this can be particularly exacting in ethnographic projects which require participants to consent to prolonged research encounters that can be invasive or disruptive of their social lives. The process is more difficult still when accessing social groups that are already heavily scrutinised, and associated with practices that are viewed as socially problematic. In such cases, traditional forms of voluntary participation and/or informed consent may be difficult to obtain in advance. This paper addresses recent debates about the ethical dilemmas and challenges involved in social science research, drawing on the first author's experiences in three studies involving young people in the 18-25 age group. These projects focused on car modifiers (aka 'boy racers'), young people's drinking cultures and Free Parties, and potential participants were initially reluctant to get involved in all three studies. In this paper the authors use these examples to explore the possibility that researchers might engage in forms of 'methodological grooming' to recruit participants, in an attempt to comply with traditional notions of informed consent. The authors end by advocating a more flexible approach to research ethics in such cases, based on gaining the trust of potential participants, finding common ground between researchers and participants, and negotiating conditional access and bounded consent.
|Number of pages||14|
|Journal||International Journal of Social Research Methodology|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Sep 2012|