Organizational anonymity and the negotiation of research access

Scott Taylor*, Christopher Land

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the part of the organizational research process, access negotiation, through reflexive analysis of the participation in a recent data collection process. The paper aims is to question two emergent norms in this area: first, that organizational anonymity be granted in exchange for organizational access; and second, that access negotiation be seen as a bounded activity at the start of data collection.

Design/methodology/approach – Through the reflexive account and with reference to published accounts of practice in other research projects, the authors explore the reasons why researchers offer organizational anonymity, and note the unintended consequences of this practice. The authors locate the discussion in relation to increased expectations on social researchers to contribute to public debate about managing and organizing. 

Findings – The author suggests that the negotiation of access without promising anonymity may generate more situated accounts of organization, and greater participation in political or ethical debates surrounding work, organization, and management. By facilitating a clearer line of impact stemming from qualitative research, this would also aid researchers in demonstrating the value of their work in informing public debate. 

Social implications – The authors conclude by reiterating the potential for organizational researchers to achieve greater social and ethical impact, especially if the authors frame access negotiation as a continuous process rather simply as than a moment at the start of a project. 

Originality/value – The authors argue that the paper raises a key, but neglected, issue in conducting empirical organizational research, that has political and ethical implications as well as a methodological significance. Through the analysis, the authors encourage themselves and the research community to be clearer about the potential value of scholarship in debates happening outside the academy, and to see access negotiation as more complex than simply a transaction in which organizational anonymity is promised in return for data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-109
Number of pages12
JournalQualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jun 2014


  • Access
  • Anonymity
  • Case study
  • Confidentiality
  • Impact
  • Organizations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)


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