Encyclopedia Entry

Key Informants

Key informants are those whose social positions in a research setting give them specialist knowledge about other people, processes or happenings that is more extensive, detailed or privileged than ordinary people, and who are therefore particularly valuable sources of information to a researcher, not least in the early stages of a project . Section Outline: Key informants and student dissertations. ‘Leading players’ in the community or organisation who have more information than most ‘ordinary people’. Identifying potential key informants. Counter-culture key informants? Key informants speak from their own perspective, although are quickly accessed and may be the only sources. Example: ‘tribal elders’ misled anthropologists. Key informants as power-brokers: gatekeepers and speaking ‘off the record’. Unique specialist knowledge versus unreliable witnesses . While research methods textbooks discuss key informants, very few say much about them as a method. This is a pity, because the key informant method is uniquely suitable for ...

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