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

Helen Owton, Jacquelyn Allen-Collinson

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


‘Friendship as method’ is a relatively under-explored – and often unacknowledged - method of qualitative inquiry in the research literature, particularly within the field of sports and exercise studies. In this article, we consider the use of friendship as method in general, and situate this in relation to a specific qualitative research project in sport, which examined the lived experience of asthma amongst sports participants. The study involved researching individuals with whom the principal researcher and first author, ‘H’, 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 interviews. To illustrate our analysis, four sets of tales are included, cohering around issues of: 1) attachment and when to ‘let go’; 2) interactional ‘game-play’; ‘rescuing’ participants; and 4) the need for researcher self-care when ‘things get too much’. The limits of inter-subjectivity and the need to guard against merger with research participants-as-friends are also addressed. In analysing the tales, we draw upon insights derived from Goffman’s theoretical frameworks on interactional encounters.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Contemporary Ethnography
Issue number3
Early online date22 Jul 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014


  • Friendship as method
  • asthma
  • confessional tales
  • emotion work
  • ethnography


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