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Shadowing in/as work: ten recommendations for shadowing fieldwork practice

Rebecca Gill (Department of Communication, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA)
Joshua Barbour (Department of Communication, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA)
Marleah Dean (Department of Communication, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX, USA)

Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management

ISSN: 1746-5648

Article publication date: 4 March 2014




The purpose of this paper is to provide practical recommendations for shadowing as a method of organizational study with a focus on the situated processes and practices of shadowing fieldwork.


This paper reflects on the shadowing experiences of three researchers – in a hospital emergency department, nuclear power plants, and entrepreneur workspaces – to generate recommendations by identifying and synthesizing solutions that emerged during the encounters with the challenges and opportunities in shadowing.


Considering shadowing as an ongoing and emergent research process can be helpful to prepare for particular aspects of shadowing fieldwork. Shadowing presents research challenges that may emerge in the practice of fieldwork, including how to negotiate awkward conversations with participants, what to bring and wear, and how to take notes.

Practical implications

Though the recommendations for shadowing are based on particular experiences and may not generalize to all shadowing engagements, they offer concrete, practical recommendations useful across experience levels. The recommendations should sensitize researchers to the intimate and situational character of shadowing, and offer strategies for coping with the distinctive requirements of shadowing.


By looking across diverse experiences of shadowing, the paper generated guidelines that help to make sense of shadowing processes, manage uncertainty in the field, and build on the emerging work on shadowing. The ten recommendations provide insight into shadowing that are of particular value to graduate students, junior researchers, and those new to shadowing. Moreover, the experienced shadower may find value in the camaraderie of shared experience, the concrete ideas about another's experience of shadowing, and insight in recommendations that capture aspects of fieldwork that they are also exploring.



The authors wish to thank their family and friends for their support of the shadowing research, particularly in the more intense times. The authors also thank the reviewers and editors of this special issue for their helpful comments.


Gill, R., Barbour, J. and Dean, M. (2014), "Shadowing in/as work: ten recommendations for shadowing fieldwork practice", Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management, Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 69-89.



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Copyright © 2014, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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