Harnessing expertise: involving peer interviewers in qualitative research with hard-to-reach populations

Health Expect. 2002 Jun;5(2):172-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1369-6513.2002.00158.x.


The use of peer interviewers with privileged access to a particular population group, which is difficult to reach via more conventional methods, has been acknowledged in recent research. This paper explores a number of key issues relating to the employment of peer interviewers by reflecting on a project designed to explore the views and experiences of parents who use illegal drugs. The project presented the research team with a number of challenges. These included the need to provide on-going support for the interviewers, a sense of distance felt by the researchers from the raw data they collected, and the difficulties of gaining from the skills and experiences of peer interviewers without exploiting their labour. The paper also explores the advantages of involving peer interviewers closely in research work and reflects on the nature and boundaries of expert knowledge that can become evident in such collaborations. The need for a certain amount of flexibility over the roles and domains of control that lay experts and researchers traditionally inhabit is suggested. In conclusion, it is argued that the involvement of peer interviewers in research can be a valuable means of enhancing our knowledge and understanding of a variety of population groups who tend to live beyond the gaze of more orthodox researchers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs
  • Interviews as Topic / methods*
  • Parents
  • Peer Group*
  • Professional Competence
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Research Design
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology


  • Illicit Drugs