Homeless in Oxford: Some practical reflections on undertaking sensitive qualitative research

Homelessness is a major social problem in the UK, and Oxford has a long-standing history of high levels of homelessness. In this seminar we will share our experiences in conducting an ongoing qualitative research project exploring homelessness in the city of Oxford. The term ‘homeless’ is used to describe three overlapping groups (rough sleepers, the statutory homeless, and the hidden homeless), yet existing research typically focuses on the groups in isolation. The current project seeks to be the first systematic attempt to explore people’s movements between homeless experiences to capture the full spectrum of homelessness.
In this seminar we share our learning to provide an honest account of the process of conducting a qualitative research project, beyond what is generally covered in textbooks and journal articles. Particular emphasis will be placed on the process of undertaking sensitive research with this hard-to-reach group. The seminar will cover all aspects of fieldwork, from study design, preparing a successful ethics application, project management, sampling and recruitment, the interview process, data management, transcription and navigating ethical issues that arise during fieldwork. We will also reflect upon some of the challenges we encountered in this project and how these were resolved.