Pub. date: 2004 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952576 | Print ISBN: 9780761923602 | Online ISBN: 9781412952576| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Jean J. Schensul
The term key informant is best understood in the context of ethnographic or qualitative research in naturalistic settings (LeCompte & Schensul, 1999). These settings are often termed “the field” (DeWalt & DeWalt, 2002; Pelto & Pelto, 1978). The field is a sociophysical setting whose boundaries are defined in terms of institutions and people of interest and their associated activities in geographic space. For ethnographers, the field is any naturalistic geographic/social setting or location where a selected research problem is to be studied—a neighborhood, a network of clinics or emergency rooms, a group of buildings, or a school system. When ethnographic or qualitative researchers go to the field, they leave their own communities, institutional settings, and familiar behavioral and cognitive patterns to “enter” another social world—the world where the research will be conducted (Bernard, 2000; Miller & Crabtree, 1994; Werner & Schoepfle, 1987). Ethnographic research is never “autobiographical.” It requires that ...