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Challenges in accessing research sites in Ghana: a research note

Theophilus Azungah (School of Business, Bolgatanga Polytechnic, Bolgatanga, Ghana)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 8 January 2019

Issue publication date: 21 November 2019




Despite the crucial role of gaining access for successful research in social and management studies, very little has been written on issues and challenges associated with gaining access particularly in an undeveloped research context such as Ghana. The purpose of this paper is to share the experience with other researchers and practitioners for them to recognise the common challenges associated with gaining access to research sites and the significance of critical reflection and reflexivity on how a researcher’s positionality affects knowledge production. The paper emphasises the need for researchers to appreciate the taken-for-granted interactions that can contribute to critical thinking about identities and reflexivity in research. The paper adds to the paucity of voices particularly overseas students and researchers returning home (to country of origin) from Euro-American institutions to carry out field research.


The paper draws on the field notes relating to the PhD fieldwork experiences in accessing subsidiaries of western multinational enterprises in Ghana. The author discussed how gatekeepers hindered access to key organisational members and the need to identify helpful networks through snowballing in order to access organisations and participants.


Considerable challenges such as denial of access, physical and psychological distress were encountered in the process of accessing organisations which often led to abandoning certain sites for others, even though those originally chosen were potentially rich sources of information. Also, positionality and the manner in which a researcher is perceived by participants certainly influence the knowledge one produces. Sufficient time is needed to negotiate and build relationships of trust with gatekeepers, which often resulted in delays in data collection. In this present study, gatekeepers often denied, limited or delayed access to potential participants and sites despite institutional ethical approval.

Practical implications

The experiences highlighted in this paper can serve as a toolkit for qualitative researchers interested in conducting research in Ghana with regard to what to expect and how to manoeuvre through in the field.


The paper contributes to the dearth of the methodology literature on issues relating to challenges to access, positionality, insider/outsider status of the researcher and their influences on knowledge production in an under-researched context, Ghana.



Azungah, T. (2019), "Challenges in accessing research sites in Ghana: a research note", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 14 No. 4, pp. 410-427.



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