Copyright Sociological Research Online, 2000


Linda Perriton (2000) 'Incestuous Fields: Management Research, Emotion and Data Analysis'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 5, no. 3, <>

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Received: 6/4/2000      Accepted: 16/11/2000      Published: 31/11/2000


Many managers are turning to universities in order to gain post-experience post-graduate qualifications in management - both to supplement their experience in career terms and to broaden their understanding of their practice. The design of such programmes encourage manager/researchers to undertake research studies in their own organisations - exposing these researchers to issues connected to researching amongst at least a partially known sample. This paper argues that manager/researchers are poorly served by the lack of discussion about the effect of researching in these 'incestuous fields'. The paper opens up some areas of debate around this issue and concludes by suggesting the basis of conversations that supervisors and students could have around this feature of management research.

Management Research ; Data Analysis ; Emotion ; Relationships with Informants


In their popular text on management research Easterby-Smith et al (1993) comment on the distinctive features of the field. They conclude that the field is highly eclectic (promoting cross-disciplinary approaches), that it focuses on 'powerful and busy people' (Easterby-Smith et al, 1993, p.5) which made access to the field difficult and finally that management research, above all, takes into account the need for action. Research in management, by implication from this list, was as business-like as its field of operation - full of purposeful projects undertaken in important places and for the good of the organisation.

Easterby-Smith et al (1993) also touch upon the large numbers of students who undertake applied management research often with the sponsorship of their employers. It is with this group of researchers in mind that I want to explore the idea of 'incestuous fields' in this paper. The expansion of management programmes in the UK has seen a rise in the number of practicising managers studying for post- graduate qualifications. Many of these programmes encourage, if not insist, that the students undertake research projects within their workplace as the basis of assessment. Many postgraduate programmes of this kind, including the ones run by my own university, 'sell' themselves on exactly this feature - that the knowledge that the student gains through using their own employers as a case study or site of research will directly 'benefit' both student and organisation.

In the 'Mode 2' educational project it is common for researchers to explore and report on their own arena of professional practice (Gibbons et al 1994). Some, like Jankowicz (1994), argue that learning for mature and post-experience students only takes place when the research activity takes place within a context of personal involvement. The financial and social pressure on universities has accelerated the acceptance of this form of localised and applied research as legitimate. The introduction of research projects in undergraduate courses too has resulted in students exploiting their social network in the name of 'manageable' design to fit tight term timetables with the encouragement of academic staff.

Without apparently appearing to even pause for reflection we are directing our researching students into local, bounded and familiar settings in which to undertake their investigations - the 'incestuous fields' referred to in the title of this paper. By implication we are also inviting them to form researcher-researched relationships within existing social, professional and familial relationships. This is of particular relevance to qualitative 'amateur' researchers within management. Many will find themselves undertaking research as peers, employees, managers, friends, lovers, family members and team members. We should not assume that because our students are researching within business that the relationships they have within those settings that are only business-like and professional. The complexity of the interaction between research participants who are effectively strangers to researchers is acknowledged by researchers (Harkess & Warren 1993) and yet our silence gives the impression that none such complexity arises in this new familiarity between friends, peers and researchers. In the name of 'professional' doctorates (Barcham, Bourner, Stevens 1999) and our rush to appear 'relevant' and purveyors of 'useful' degrees we push our students into problematic researcher-researched relationships without guidance.

This paper does not argue that the issues of researching within 'incestuous fields' are unsupported by an existing body of literature. Clearly social science disciplines such as Anthropology have a long tradition of writing about such difficulties and issues connected with interviewing peers have been identified in sociology for some time (e.g. Platt 1981). My argument is that although 'professional' management researchers often draw on the whole of the social sciences to form their methodological frame manager/researchers often rely on management research texts and supervision. Management methodological texts - relatively few in number anyway (e.g. Emory and Cooper 1991, Easterby-Smith et al 1993, Gill and Johnson 1997, Alvesson and Deetz 2000) are mostly silent on the issues connected to working in incestuous fields. The first section of this paper attempts to start the debate within management research by outlining some of the issues involved in working in such a context that were raised in a research study I have recently completed. The list of issues tackled in this paper is by no means exhaustive but I start, in the second section, by considering the issue of a 'mixed' research sample (in my case ranging from intimate friends to complete strangers). The third section concentrates on examining the arguments of those who are surfacing issues of 'emotional data' in research (Reid 1998, Reay 1996, Reay 1996a, Coffey 1999, Stanley and Wise 1993 and St Pierre 1997). The final section considers the fine line between the explication of research methodology and confession.

An Example of an Incestuous Field

I entered full-time academic research through the 'amateur' route outlined above - working first on a part-time master's degree based on my professional work and then later undertaking a PhD investigating an aspect of my former career. I'd like to offer an example loosely based on my own experience of working in an incestuous field as a way of illustrating what students may be experiencing, but which remains unacknowledged in the management methodological literature which many 'amateur' researchers rely on.

My research was a small-scale qualitative project in the area of management pedagogy. I had previously worked in a large management development department in a multinational organisation, had represented the company on various professional associations, had worked freelance for a couple of years, had also worked as an associate of a consultancy firm and was now studying in a university department specialising in management education. In short, I knew a lot of management educators and developers and was well placed to include them in my study. My sample was made up of approximately 50% people who I was familiar with (to varying degrees from intimately to being on nodding terms) and 50% people I had not met before interviewing them. My research sample included a former partner, who now lived abroad, but who was willing to take part - as many in my research sample did - by taking part in an email conversation.

My response to the data drawn from people - perhaps two or three in the sample - that I would call 'friends' surprised me. I found myself 'responding' to their data much more easily - finding it easier to read and to analyse. I experienced the email 'conversation' I had with my former partner in particular as an incredibly rich experience. We had a pre-existing shared set of experiences and many of the examples that my former partner used in interview didn't have to be explained as laboriously as if we were strangers. They simply referred to people we had both known to illustrate their points ("Oh, that that's the sort of trainer that X was!") or referred to experiences we had had jointly ("That sort of teaching was just the sort of thing I was objecting to when we did the course at Y together"). On the page the data looks thin in terms of description but it had a resonance for me that was rich and influential. It was difficult to consider some parts of the interview transcripts as being bounded by the words on the page. Often, when I reread the transcripts, I was aware that it acted as a prompt for my own memories - surfacing material in my own experience I had not previously considered influencing my analysis.

The relationships I drew on (and instinctively found myself wanting to exploit) are ones that many people have in a work environment. Daniels (1983) has commented on the fact that although ethical difficulties often arise out of the relationship between researcher and researched these are rarely talked about or shared with other researchers. Bell (1999) suggests that if they are talked about, it will not be in the context of a professional forum but in private, social spaces. I want to bring some of those issues into the professional forum in supervision sessions. As I supervise more and more postgraduate research projects I see students following a similar pattern to my own research, instinctively working their way outwards from close colleagues to more distant informants as they gain in confidence and curiosity. And yet when these research accounts are written up the relationships are invariably presented as purely 'business-like'. In these accounts all informants are equal and none explore the effect of 'knowing' on their data analysis or research process.

I think there are two issues we could usefully explore with students connected to working in incestuous fields. The first is whether or not there are 'penalties' to the researcher in using known recipients in data. Could the fact that there is a pre-existing (usually positive) attachment of some sort between a researcher and some of their research sample 'contaminate' the process of research and analysis? In my research it was difficult for me to tease out the different strands of the effect of working with material given by my former partner. Did I find their data 'richer' because we have always had a similar intellectual wavelength? Did I let my regard for them elevate their data unfairly when compared to people I interviewed that I didn't feel affectionate towards? Or was I in fact adding to their data by building into it my own memories and reactions to instances they referred to in interview? The second issue is whether these are issues that must be explained and drawn attention to in the write-up of the research study.

Management research is very different to most anthropological research where much of the existing literature on these issues is located (e.g Garfinkel 1999, Carter and Delamont 1996, Emerson 1988). Many qualitative Master's research projects are conducted within a six-month period and are based on short, semi- structured interviews. 'Amateur' management researchers - because of the nature of their degree programmes and their employment status - do not undertake longitudinal surveys that require repeated contact with their informants, they do not remain 'in the field' in a research capacity because their work often requires them to re-establish a distance between themselves and their informants in the name of professionalism. In fact many management researchers who are managers 'as their day job' are often at pains to stress the transitory nature of their research 'identity' to informants. Many of them in fact create a distinct persona of themselves as 'researcher' attached to this 'other life' they live as student and which they want to be considered as separate to their identity as manager. Presumably this allows them, and their informant, to re- establish the 'correct' social relationship in the workplace after the (often surprisingly) intimate and confessional process of being interviewed. Because of the factors above, unique to the manager/researcher, the situation where researcher and researched become friends and intimates through a developing research relationship is rarer than it is in other research traditions. Consequently any emotional attachment the researcher and an informant have before the research commences is likely to be perceived as an issue because relationships with 'strangers' met during the research do not have the opportunity to develop. Hence for many management researchers the data of known informants will be contrasted against that of 'strangers' in the process.

Why Researchers Chose People they know in their Sample.

There are several reasons why researchers turn to people they know for their data. As noted above many management researchers are almost compelled by the design of their post-graduate study to research their immediate employment environment. Other researchers 'notice' things in their own environment that they wish to explore. Others, like me, wish to explore their professional work and start the process by asking people whom they know have an opinion on the subject as a convenient starting point.

Reid (1998) conducted an educational research project based on her curiosity about computer games played by her own children. She reflected on the perilous balance inherent in such research relationships in a methodological article resulting from that project. She had decided to include her own children in her data sample.

Although there is clearly an ultimate, altruistic... motive driving [the] research, there is, nonetheless, a thin line between the exploitation of relationships of love and trust, between children and researcher/teachers and parents, and the privileged access that such close relationships afford us as researchers. (Reid:1998:56)
But I believe that a great many researchers - especially those new to the process - start their research amongst their peer group, friends, family or partners because they believe it will lessen the anxiety involved.

Surveying the chapters and articles on qualitative data gathering that stress the need for 'rapport' between researcher and respondent a researcher could mistakenly assume that a close knowledge of their data provider placed them in research nirvana. Tewksbury and Gagne (1997) contend that 'rapport is critical between researchers and those researched' (p. 128) The presumed advantage in knowing your respondent is that the difficult task of building a strong-enough-for- research interpersonal tie has already been accomplished. The tasks involved in building this tie, according to Tewksbury and Gagne, include presenting ourselves as accessible, trustworthy and worthy of visiting the communities and individuals we research. The authors then go on to advocate the selection of researchers most likely to complement the personal and social traits of the community being studied. Tewksbury and Gagne also advocate the positive effects for the research in the researcher and respondent getting to the point where self-revelation becomes possible because of shared 'cultural patterns' (p. 133). Easterby-Smith et al (1993) so stress the importance of appropriate and instinctive behaviour with regard to social interaction. However some commentators such as Powell (1996) see this approach to rapport building as pragmatic and instrumental - rather than as acknowledging that good interviewing can also involve a high degree of emotional involvement.

These are onerous expectations to place on the usual chance combination of researcher and stranger-respondent personalities. The popularity of researching within existing work or social communities may have grown because the stresses of 'stranger research' are assumed to be absent. No doubt one of the attractions of using a friend (or even a former partner) in the research study has much to do with the lessening of the anxiety felt in initiating a research relationship with a stranger, which in the researcher's mind at least, needs to be successful. This is a stressful process that can lead to the avoidance of fieldwork by the researcher as the fatigue of constantly having to form successful relationships builds (Corsino 1987).

However, the assumption that this represents some sort of research ideal does not stand up to the test of experience. Several writers have reported on their own and others' difficulties when researching amongst friends and family.

One of the most enduring accounts of research amongst family and friends is Garfinkel's (1999) experiment where undergraduate students were given the task of acting as if they were boarders in their own home, reacting politely and only speaking when spoken to. Students reported a range of reactions from "astonishment, bewilderment, shock, anxiety, embarrassment and anger "(Garfinkel, 1999, p. 47). And in some senses 'changing' from the role of friend or peer to that of researcher is a form of ethnomethological research in itself - although the transition from one to the other is usually acknowledged in some way. Nevertheless many researchers and their friend/informants report similar feelings of bewilderment and embarrassment at the new 'impersonal' and rational relationship they find themselves in. In my own research I took one of my friends to lunch to interview them for my project. Formerly inconsequential decisions such as where to eat, how the bill for lunch would be handled and normal occurrences such as silences or judgements about 'appropriate' topics for lunchtime discussion became incredibly fraught. The memory of that lunch has become, for me, one of mild and persistent embarrassment.

There are sometimes sadder consequences. A study by Down (Down and Sadler-Smith 1999) involved one of his close friends in exploring how managers in small businesses learn. The research stopped because the friendship cooled as a result of the researcher's disquiet with decisions made by his friend with regards to his personal life. For Down the act of research was impossible to separate the act of research from the feelings and involvement of the researcher. Down's co-author admits that in respect of the research study he found and finds the notion of researching a known subject troubling.

With respect to your relationship with your subject which you describe as 'long-standing' and 'reasonably close' even claiming to know his personal history ... this concerns me: surely any relationship which you have with a practitioner should be on purely 'professional' grounds, devoid of your subjective interpretations and feelings in relation to his 'life'. I feel vindicated in this regard as I read on through your 'account' - your relationship was the rock upon which your research began to flounder (cf. his marital relationship?). (Down and Sadler-Smith 1999)
Friendship and research are a potent mix. And it is a mix that we should perhaps stop being so surprised about. Homan asserts that all social science researchers start to suffer from a 'persistence of research habits' and that 'one's subjects become one's friends [and] one's friends become one's subjects' (Homan 1991, p. 169).

Fortunately for researchers research does not always spell the end of the relationship but many can be challenged by the experience. Harkess and Warren note a number of possible effects of research within 'the web of group affiliation' (Harkess and Warren 1993, p. 332). They observe that informants - far from demonstrating ease in the social interaction as the existence of a pre-interview rapport may suggest - become increasingly uncomfortable as the interview progresses. In Warren's studies the trappings of research seen to be appropriate for stranger research - tape recorders, the question and answer format, explanations of the research aims - were perceived as inappropriate amongst friends. In addition both the informants and researcher reported 'feeling stupid' in asking and answering questions to access information that was already common knowledge in their social group through storytelling and retelling. This feeling of discomfort was felt to inhibit the storytelling of the informant to the point where Harkess and Warren suggest 'the greater the degree of intimacy, the less may be the storytelling in relation to the interview topic' (Harkess and Warren 1993, p. 332). The authors conclude their account of such research with this thought about incestuous fields.

In conducting interviews in a web of group affiliation, then, the researcher must distinguish any features that may detract from validity - feelings of 'stupidity,' suppression of storytelling, betrayal of loyalty, and porous boundaries between interviewer self and respondent other - from those that may enhance it - broadening and deepening the meaning of the interview in multiple encounters - and then decide whether the latter outweigh the former. (Harkess and Warren 1993, p. 334)
Of course, this presumes that the researcher is aware that such issues may become significant. As I have argued in the introduction it is these issues and others that 'amateur' management researchers are not encouraged to confront.

Outing the Emotional

What would management gain by exploring emotion and other issues arising from incestuous fields to its methodological discussions? Some forms of ethnography have included 'confessional' accounts of long fieldwork research (Van Maanen 1988), (Coffey 1999). However very little has been written about emotions in the research process (Reay 1996) which is not anthropologically based. This is a fact that is regretted by experienced researchers such as Kate Backett-Milburn who, when looking back over the developments in qualitative research during her career, wrote:

Interestingly, much of this work [on reflexivity] seems to have focused more on design and fieldwork issues and it only more recently that attention has been paid to the importance of reflexivity for the analytical process, these are welcome advances Ribbens and Edwards 1988). Equally, if addressed at all, the role of emotions in the research process has generally been examined from the viewpoint of respondents and their impact on the researcher has remained largely unacknowledged...(Backett-Milburn 1999 p. 73)

Coffey (1999) points out that qualitative data analysis can be said to have two simultaneous and yet contrasting tendencies. There is little point in denying that data analysis is to a large extent 'principled and formulaic, subject to a level of prescription and instruction' (Coffey 1999 p. 137). And it is this aspect that is written about in the handbooks of research recommended to students and lectured on during research training programmes. But the other aspect of data analysis cannot be so easily documented because it is an elusive, personal activity. Coffey states that it is 'often difficult to describe or discover analysis is actually done. There are very few confessional accounts of 'doing analysis' (Coffey, 1999 p. 137). As such the formulaic vision of data analysis prevails and is pervades the management researcher's own expectations as to what to expect during the analysis stage. Thus it excludes discussions that may otherwise raise issues about the effect of analysing data from people you are close to alongside the data of 'strangers'.

It is perhaps no coincidence that the authors who write about the 'irruption' (St. Pierre 1997) of emotion are those who are researching people with whom they are expected to have significant emotional bonds with. These researcher- researched relationships are laid over existing relationships defined by their emotional importance. In my own research study I was troubled by my 'biased' response to data generated by a former partner and friends above that of people I met through the research, Stanley and colleagues researched their mothers, Stanley (1996) researched issues around her father's experience of mental health care and Reid's (1998) research involved her children. Researchers in these situations - perhaps for complex relational reasons - cannot and do not wish to pretend that emotion is absent from the analysis stage and that they can be 'unmoved' by the words of people they have great affection and love for.

Perhaps the fact that we experience and struggle with emotional resonance in the analysis of data from intimate informants should alert us to what we are perhaps suppressing in our more casual research relationships. We are so seduced by the notion that analysis is an intellectual, reasoned activity that we are trained not to recognise the emotion we feel in respect of data. We act as if our choices of coding categories come straight from that coolly logical side of our brain unfiltered by any contextual emotional response. What of the data that we may subconsciously downgrade because the respondent unexpectedly physically resembled a school bully we once knew, or the warmer feelings we have towards the data from the respondent that reveals they support the same football team as a deceased father? Reay (1996a) is one of the few to recount that her identification on class grounds with a portion of her sample made her treat the data of the middle-class sample less sympathetically as a result. She was only later reflexively aware that she had made the middle-class participants the 'Other'. In the pursuit of 'hygienic' research (Wise and Stanley 1993) it seems we are routinely able to intellectualise away emotional response.

So, the problem may be larger than first imagined. Instead of trying to 'suppress' the emotionalism felt in regard to the one or two of our data set that we have prior relationships many authors ask us to 'express' the emotional response to the entire data set.

Reflexive Researchers and the Notion of Privacy

In the previous sections of this paper I outlined some of the issues and debates in methodological literature outside of management with regards to working in incestuous fields. I wanted to explore whether or not pre-existing attachments between a researcher and some of their research sample 'contaminated' the process of research and analysis? I think that it does - but in ways so unpredictable as not to automatically confer advantage on the researcher or the research. However in the introduction I also raised the question of whether the existence of such conundrums should be raised by researchers within their research texts.

Questions about the use of pre- existing relationships in the research process - like my own example in finding the data of partners and friends inherently more 'valuable' in my sense making of the subject I was studying - raise issues about the 'politics' of ethical dilemmas. Galliher (1982) comments that research codes of conduct are drawn up with a certain image of research subjects in mind. These research subjects are presumed to be ignorant and vulnerable groups in society and almost always include students. However well-founded the assumption may be it does lead to a situation where ethics - and how they are framed - relate to a fixed power differential where the researcher holds all the cards. Galliher (1982) and, later, Easterby-Smith et al (1993) point out that when researching higher status groups in society - as is often the case in researching executives in organisations - the notion of ethics undergoes a sea-change. If it is the case that 'the more powerful members of society generally have both the awareness and the means to protect themselves from the prying eyes and tape recorders of researchers' (Easterby-Smith et al 1993, p. 45), and that it is acceptable to 'renegotiate' the sense of ethical behaviour in these cases, then there is an interesting rule of thumb emerging in research ethics. If researching subjects of a lower status than yourself then you are guided by ethics and when researching higher status subjects you have cunning and guile. What then of researching known subjects of equal status within your peer group? I suspect you are on your own with a moral dilemma because the distribution of power within the relationship - at least in terms of social status - are similar.

Reflexive researchers would no doubt agree with the basic premise outlined by Stanley (1996) when she writes:

Such [a reflexive] approach rejects the key foundationalist myth of the detached scientific observer/researcher; it instead positions an experiencing and comprehending subject at the heart of intellectual and research life, a subject whose ontologically based reasoning process provide the grounds for knowledge-claims and thus for all epistemological endeavour. (Stanley 1996 p. 45)

However, as noted in Perriton (forthcoming), there are only limited examples of reflexive research accounts within management. Many management researchers choose to publish the reflexive account separately from the study findings. This only adds to the impression held by many 'amateur' researchers in management that their own attitudes and beliefs are to be kept out of the research process. In fact it goes deeper than this in that many manager/researchers within management believe that it is possible to keep out their own attitudes and beliefs.

However, reflexive research is not unknown in management. And within the reflexive tradition as a whole there are precedents for discussing emotional responses to data and even support for admitting the effect of emotion. Young (1997) speaks of reflexivity as waging a long guerrilla warfare on the image of 'the civic public' that expels from its realm every trace of specificity and human particularity including 'the goals and desires of individuals, the ambiguity and changeability of feeling..' (p. 195). Coffey (1999) probably speaks for a significant number of others who are patiently waiting for the first confessional insight into the emotional aspects of data analysis.

Before we recommend a headlong rush for academic glory for our students we may wish to pause and consider why, apart from infrequent examples, management in general isn't a site of such research accounts. There may be some convincing arguments for not spilling the beans.

Although an epistemological belief may direct a researcher to explore the self in relation to the data to the fullest possible extent, it is probable that other researchers would not expect it of their fellow professionals. Lofland's guideline (quoted in Bell, 1999) stated that the necessity was to reveal methods and not the soul. And this rule of thumb is probably invoked silently more often by researchers than we can imagine. Research would be an intolerable undertaking if the expectation was, like government ministers and royal brides; that individuals had to come to the role free of sin, blame and approbation. Young (1997) argues for a more flexible notion of the difference between the private and the public.

Instead of defining as what the public excludes ... the private should be defined ... as that aspect of his or her life and activity that any person has the right to exclude others from. The private in this sense is not what the public institutions exclude, but what the individual chooses to withdraw from public view. (Young 1997, p. 197)

I thought long and hard about including my own research example in this paper and then even longer about how I would represent the effect it had on my data and the analysis process. But I think those decisions about textual representation reside quite properly with the individual. It is the researcher who should be the arbiter of what is made public. All things considered epistemologies should not be allowed to make decisions on their own.

There is also the politics of confession to add to the consideration of revealing emotional relationships with respondents and/or their data. Bernstein (1992) is scathing of academics who use the confessional mode in their writing from the safety of tenured positions. Can all researchers afford such a confession professionally?

[Names academic], for instance, is established in her career, so little wonder she gets to confess herself into her scholarly work. What about the untenured aspiring feminist theorist who questions their self-sanctioning rhetoric? (Bernstein 1992)

Bernstein also cautions against assuming that every reader welcomes such textual interruption by the life history of the researcher. Although noting that some will be appreciative that the author is highlighting the provisional nature of the representation of knowledge other readers have little tolerance for 'personalising' academic work. (Bernstein 1992, p. 127). Paechter (1996) also asks, through her work, for researchers to consider whether they really wish for their audience to become their confessors. She renders the relationship between the researcher who includes confessional aspects in their accounts and their audience problematic. When such personal aspects are present it confers on the reader 'the power that accompanies the acquiring of privileged knowledge' which is the ability to interpret and to judge (Paechter 1996, p. 81). Both these writers caution researchers against the unthinking rush to the confessional box, with Paechter concluding that 'openness is not necessarily for the best' (p. 83).

The retreat of commentators into a generalised rhetoric of individual choice is one I am happy to endorse. Some dilemmas are as hard and as simple as that. In management research such as mine the researcher has the reflexively more difficult choice of exposing one's relationships of choice (in the way that familial relationships are not) to outside scrutiny. Coffey (1999) acknowledges that whether or not we choose to reveal these kinds of relationships in our research texts will be the choice of the researcher. But whether the knowledge is shared with the research audience is not really the whole point as 'it is both realistic and epistemologically valuable at least to confess and have the conversation with ourselves' (Coffey 1999 p. 96, emphasis added).


I want to argue that in qualitative management research - especially when supervising manager/researchers - it will be important to prompt students to think about these issues and to share in such conversations. As we increasingly treat the familiar as strange, and undertake ethnographic studies our church congregation, interview the governors of our child's school or chart the learning strategy of our brother-in-law who just happens to be a small business owner, we grow more familiar with the issues raised in this article. It focused on two main perspectives on the issue of known respondents - the emotionality implicit in the analysis process and the pressures of reflexivity.

The texts and assumptions we pass on to research students have not caught up with the trend away from 'stranger research'. Outside of the traditions of ethnographic research there is little acknowledgement in management research that emotion can and does blur the vision of the supposedly rational and objective researcher. Those who do acknowledge the role of emotion in analysis do so from an understanding of how every informant - not just one that we may think has more influence - triggers an emotional response in the researcher. That this sort of ebb and flow in our response to our data is seen as 'transgressive' (St Pierre 1997) and consequently not 'fit' for inclusion is a result of the overwhelmingly sterile way that data analysis is written about. Coffey (1999) argues for the inclusion of both sides of the experience of data analysis. She does not wish to downgrade the mechanistic aspects of coding and re-coding that are undeniably part of the process but wishes for the instinctive, elusive, difficult to document processes also to be acknowledged.

The first sections of this paper concentrated on what issues might result from researching in incestuous fields. The last section considered the arguments for publishing such a reflexive account within management. Reasons for pausing before publishing this form of reflexive account range from the lack of censure from other researchers if you chose not to, the awareness of the judging power of the audience (Paechter 1996), the right to privacy (Young 1997) and the professional harm it may represent (Bernstein 1992).

But whether or not these accounts are published I do believe they form the basis of important conversations we can have amongst professional and 'amateur' researchers in management. We need to understand how manager/researchers that include known respondents in their sample, or researchers who exploit former professional interests, understand how or if these relationships affect the research process. Management researchers have a unique opportunity to make a methodological contribution in the area of short duration, interview based fieldwork where the sample reflects a range of relationships. At the very least we should be asking our students whether their interviews included people to whom they were close, had shared experiences in the past and who they considered contributed to their sense-making in ways which were different from people whom they considered 'strangers'. We also might want to ask about how those interviews were conducted - were they qualitatively distinct, did they raise uncomfortable feelings about roles and attitudes that were instructive to understanding research within management? And we might want to explore with the students how their understanding of research had changed through the experience of experiencing research as something other than a rational, bounded and intellectual process. By treating incestuous fields as a normal feature of management research we may also discover another distinctive feature of our field that can be a source of insight and not the subject of a cover-up.


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