Researching sensitive topics such as sickness and disability can encompass a wide range of demands that must be continually negotiated throughout the research process by both the researcher and research participants. Therefore, a studying the study approach is important when exploring the quality and ethical practice in qualitative research on sensitive issues with vulnerable populations. This becomes especially important within a UK context when considering the negative discourse surrounding the sickness benefits process in the UK. Drawing upon semi-structured interviews with 25 long-term sick and disabled benefits recipients in the UK, the study sought to uncover the health and illness narratives of long-term sickness benefits recipients. Within the presentation of methods that were used, a discussion of the methods used in conducting a “study of the study” are considered, providing an illustration of how to do this and what to do with the results of such a reflective piece. The challenges of doing such research are outlined, and the need for a reflective process surrounding the research process is emphasised. Finally, the approach of studying the study is an example of an illustration of how to adopt this approach when considering qualitative research with hard to reach groups.


Reflexive, Sickness, Disability, Sickness Benefits, Identity, Performance, Qualitative, Grounded Theory, Hard to Reach


I would like to thank all of those who took part in the research – I wish you all the very best for the future. Thanks also to the editor of The Qualitative Report for providing useful and constructive feedback.

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