Online training


Online training
BYO computer, your house, your address


11 Jun 2021


11:00 am - 3:00 pm

SCJ/CDD Researching Powerful Elites & Researching Vulnerable Subalterns

This online workshop has been organised by the Security, Conflict and Justice (SCJ) Pathway and the Civil Society, Development and Democracy (CDD) Pathway, and is open to all ESRC and non-ESRC funded PhD and MA Social Research students within the WRDTP’s seven partner universities.

Whilst this workshop is aimed at SCJ and CDD Pathway students, PGRs from all seven interdisciplinary Pathways are welcome to attend if your research aligns with the themes of this training.

This joint training event of the Security, Conflict and Justice and Civil Society, Democracy and Development Pathways will be of particular interest to PGRs whose research centres on powerful elites and/or vulnerable subalterns. Specific attention will be paid to fieldwork considerations.

Part one of this training event comprises a focused session on elite interviews. Based on a multitude of experiences from PhD researchers and on a published book -Interviewing Elites, Experts and the Powerful in Criminology (Palgrave, 2020)- the training offers tips and tricks on how to overcome practical challenges when interviewing elites, experts and the powerful, especially when inquiring about sensitive topics. Trainees will be presented with sampling and recruitments strategies, advice on gaining and maintaining access to participants, support in navigating power imbalances and positionality. They will also learn how to use reflexivity when collecting and analysing data, as well as considering particular ethical issues

Part two comprises a focused session on conducting research with vulnerable subaltern actors. Participatory methods have a long history in social science research, especially in sociology and anthropology, but they are increasingly prevalent across the broad scope of disciplines, from criminology to human geography, as well as in politics and international relations. However, a range of personal and ethical dilemmas face researchers when engaging with vulnerable groups, including: the navigation of difficult subjects such as criminal activity and trauma; the imperative of giving voice to actors, even if that authentic voice is difficult to hear; the need to reflect on the researcher’s own positionality in a situation of asymmetric power; and wider questions of entry, exit and undertaking participatory research with rather than on objectified respondents.

As well as preparing PGRs for fieldwork involving both elite and vulnerable groups, the dual structure of this training event is designed to promote critical reflection about fieldwork more generally. Learning about key differences and best practices for fieldwork across these groups, PGRs are encouraged to consider the specific needs and challenges of their own research subjects, as well as how their own methods plans might be reformulated.

This training event will:

  1. engage PGRs with two contrasting research subjects and the methods employed to research them;
  2. provide PGRs with insights fieldwork considerations as well as useful tips to overcome the challenges, pitfalls, dilemmas and risks of researching powerful elites and vulnerable subalterns; and,
  3. enable PGRs to ask expert researcher experts questions pertinent to their own fieldwork, as well as to be more critically reflective about it.

FOr queries regarding the content of this training please contact either Dr Matt Bishop (CDD) or Professor Conor O’Reilly (SCJ)

This training session will be delivered via Blackboard Collaborate. 

PLEASE NOTE: Our online training sessions will be recorded and will be available on the VIRE in an edited format for those students who cannot attend. If you wish to join this session but do not wish for your contributions to be included in the edited VIRE resource, please ensure that you select NO when prompted in the online booking form regarding recording.

Hourly Schedule


11.00am - 1.00pm
Researching Powerful Elites
Rita Faria and Olga Petintseva
1.30pm - 3.00pm
Researching Vulnerable Subalterns
Helen Turton and David Duriesmith