Positionality, Gender and Reflexivity in Outsider-Insider Research

A case study of interviewing police officers in China


  • Anqi Shen Northumbria University




This article examines the intricacies of researcher positionality in a study examining women in policing in China. It aims to shed light on the manifold ways in which researcher positionality – the researcher’s relationship with the participants, gender and other identities – impacts the research process. The study draws from my own experiences, as a female researcher and former insider, engaging in qualitative interviews with both female and male police officers in the context of a feminist inquiry into women in Chinese policing. This article explores the advantages and challenges of outsider-insider research, dissects the role of gender in shaping the research landscape and probes how the researcher’s myriad identities may influence research access, information gathering, data analysis, findings and conclusions. Moreover, it discusses strategies adopted to overcome research barriers. By presenting this outsider-insider research as a case study, the article underscores the vital role of researcher reflexivity in unearthing the truth regarding women’s experiences and upholding academic rigour. It not only advocates for the use of qualitative interviewing as a tool for knowledge production, but also makes important contributes to the fields of feminist research and qualitative inquiry. In addition, it offers compelling narratives of women within Chinese law enforcement, thereby enriching the discourse on gender policing studies.






Academic articles