The Open UniversitySkip to content

Close but not too close: friendship as method(ology) in ethnographic research encounters.

Owton, Helen and Allen-Collinson, Jacquelyn (2014). Close but not too close: friendship as method(ology) in ethnographic research encounters. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 43(3) pp. 283–305.

Full text available as:
PDF (Accepted Manuscript) - Requires a PDF viewer such as GSview, Xpdf or Adobe Acrobat Reader
Download (459kB) | Preview
DOI (Digital Object Identifier) Link:
Google Scholar: Look up in Google Scholar


“Friendship as method” is a relatively underexplored—and often unacknowledged—method, even within ethnographic inquiry. In this article, we consider the use of friendship as method in general, and situate this in relation to a specific ethnographic research project, which examined the lived experience of asthma amongst sports participants. The study involved researching individuals with whom the principal researcher had prior existing friendships. Via forms of confessional tales we explore some of the challenges encountered when attempting to negotiate the demands of the dual researcher-friend role, particularly during in-depth interviews. To illustrate our analysis, four sets of tales are examined, cohering around issues of: (1) attachment and when to “let go”; (2) interactional “game-play”; (3) “rescuing” participants; and (4) the need for researcher self-care when “things get too much.” The need to guard against merger with research participants-as-friends is also addressed. In analysing the tales, we draw upon insights derived from symbolic interactional analyses and in particular upon Goffman’s theoretical frameworks on interactional encounters.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2013 The Authors
ISSN: 1552-5414
Keywords: friendship as method; ethnographic inquiry; Goffman; emotion work; confessional tales; asthma
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Research Group: Childhood Youth and Sport Group (CYSG)
Item ID: 42694
Depositing User: Helen Owton
Date Deposited: 11 May 2015 09:31
Last Modified: 04 Oct 2016 21:52
Share this page:


Altmetrics from Altmetric

Citations from Dimensions

Download history for this item

These details should be considered as only a guide to the number of downloads performed manually. Algorithmic methods have been applied in an attempt to remove automated downloads from the displayed statistics but no guarantee can be made as to the accuracy of the figures.

Actions (login may be required)

Policies | Disclaimer

© The Open University   contact the OU