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Key Informant

Jon H. Rieger

Subject Anthropology
Sociology » Methods in Sociology

Key-Topics qualitative methods

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


The term key informant is generally associated, though not exclusively, with qualitative research in which a researcher employs interviewing of knowledgeable participants as an important part of the method of investigation. During the often extended period of fieldwork that such research requires, a particular subject may become an especially useful source of information, be repeatedly interviewed, and thus earn designation as a key informant. It is not unusual in field research that at any particular time an investigator might have several informants who could be identified as performing in that role. Key informants can extend the investigator's reach in situations where he or she has not, or cannot, be a direct observer, and they can illuminate the meanings of behavior that the researcher does not understand. They can also serve as a check on the information obtained from other informants. Varying circumstances may determine who actually ends up serving as a key informant. Sometimes a person becomes a key informant by merit of playing an important role in the social setting being studied. If the researcher is studying an organization, for example, a key informant might turn out to be that person who occupies a central structural position or who may be situated strategically in the communication network within the organization. An individual in such a position is likely to be unusually ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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