Gaining Access: Barriers to Conducting Interviews Within the Waste Management Industry


In this case, I describe the significant barriers that I encountered when trying to conduct a case study on waste transportation in southern Ontario, Canada. As a doctoral candidate conducting qualitative research for my dissertation, I found it very challenging to develop contacts within the waste management industry, to discuss industry statistics on the transportation of waste (which were often redacted under the auspices of proprietary information), and to prove myself as a credible researcher. In my experience developing this case, I found that waste management industries are reticent about social science research, in part, because they are (understandably) wary of divulging any information that might be used to negatively characterize their company, especially in the media. I found that my role as a researcher was often negatively associated with journalism—more accurately, gotcha journalism—and I had difficulty dispelling the notion that I was a social science researcher conducting a case study instead of a journalist writing an exposé. In this essay, I outline some of the strategies that I employed to try and gain access to an industry that is highly concerned with managing its public image and is largely distrustful of outsiders looking in.

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