Conducting research among peers and communities that a researcher also serves may be both daunting and rewarding. Researching peers may make the researcher feel uncomfortable raising certain questions that are sensitive or that could be construed to be testing their competencies. This paper is inclined more towards showing that it is advantageous to be an insider, whose position can facilitate collection of information that could not have been accessed, or revealed to an outsider. The paper reports on fieldwork conducted in a low-income country in Sub-Sahara Africa as part of a doctoral study with communities affected by disasters and those that work with such communities. The paper demonstrates the complexities of conducting such research and provides some insights that may be useful to insiders, outsiders or “in-betweeners” embarking on fieldwork in low-income countries and among vulnerable population struggling with manifold stresses and shocks.


Insider Researcher, Social Desirability, Malawi, Research Ethics, Peer Research, Gatekeepers, Semi-Structured Interviews

Author Bio(s)

Stern Mwakalimi Kita completed his doctorate studies in the Department of Geography, School of Global Studies at the University of Sussex, Brighton in the United Kingdom in 2017. His PhD research was on adaptation to climate change and climate variability and disaster risk reduction, with focus on resettlement. Since 2009, he has worked in disaster risk management within the government of Malawi. He holds an MSc in Environment and Development from Trinity College Dublin, Ireland Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: stenkita@gmail.com.


Funding for the study on which this paper is based was provided by the University of Sussex through the Chancellor's International Research Scholarship programme. Additional support from the Department of Disaster Management Affairs in Malawi is acknowledged. The author would further like to thank Bruce Lilyea and Robin Cooper for their comments and guidance in revising the paper.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.