Obtaining access to data sources: an exploration of method, problems and possible solutions



A method, route and problems relating to the gaining of access to research data or respondents in discussed. In seeking permission to gather data from patients and staff in Scottish psychiatric hospitals, using Flanagan's Critical Incident Technique, a number of problems were encountered, viz. (i) the varying administrative levels to which the first formal request for entry had to be made; (ii) the varying routes which had to be followed in order to gain permission, and (iii) the time taken to obtain access to data sources. The problems, their possible consequences, and a number of long and short term recommendations are made. If implemented, these may go some way toward minimizing the difficulties associated with gaining access to data sources. The long term recommendations, including improved nurse representation on existing research and ethical committees, are directed to those who shape and influence policies relating to research practice generally. The short term recommendations are directed to the nurse researcher who is seeking access to field sites, with a view to minimizing problems relating to this aspect of planning and carrying out research activity.