Few social researchers study elites because elites, by their nature, are very difficult to access. The contributors to this volume provide valuable insights on how researchers can successfully penetrate elite settings. As the authors reflect on their experiences, they provide constructive advice as well as cautionary tales about how they learned to maneuver and become accepted in a world that is often closed to them. This book's coverage includes three broad research domains: business elites, professional elites, and community and political elites. Although the studies focus on qualitative methodology, even researchers who emphasize more quantitative methods will benefit from this volume's thoughtful observations on how researchers gather data, construct interview strategies, write about their subjects, and experience the research process. A wide range of researchers in organizational studies, sociology, political science, and many other fields will find this volume to be an important guide to the many subtle and elusive features of conducting successful research with these groups.
Chapter 5: Tales from the Field: Learning from Researchers' Accounts
I once enthusiastically told Erving Goffman I was studying business elites. “Have you slept with them?,” he replied. “No, but I am getting in to talk with them,” I proudly answered.
Some of the essays in this volume honestly address the issues of gaining access, struggling to decide if what you think you have learned is accurate, and reporting it as interestingly and creatively as possible, ideally extending or even creating a sociological theory. The Goffman challenge—Is our knowledge intimate enough to be genuinely reliable?—doubtless haunts every field researcher setting up to go into the field. Although ultimately we may never be positive that what we report is 100% correct, ...