Using qualitative research methods, the contributors to this volume have put forward an important and diversified set of reflections about their research experiences in military contexts. Drawing upon these experiences, we shall now present some general conclusive comments, as well as concrete suggestions that may assist other researchers. While the various chapters are reasonably diverse with regard to topics covered, national/organizational contexts studied and research designs implemented, there is one aspect pertaining to the research setting that makes the experiences comparable in a rather special way: the institutional isomorphism of military organizations. Beyond national and interservice variation, military organizations possess a number of structural and cultural features that are shared cross-nationally. Military personnel are usually subject to similar processes of professional socialization and follow, in their daily lives, a normative framework based on discipline, obedience, esprit de corps and hierarchy. This explains why certain traits and challenges of qualitative research developed in military contexts can be shared by researchers from different national backgrounds; and also why researchers working in this field are particularly sensitive to evidence that contradicts or departs from the archetypical pattern, creating the need to develop context-sensitive analyses. In general, one crucial issue for the success of the research is to gain access and formal clearance from the competent authorities. This is often achieved through the mediating influence of relevant or trustworthy individuals within the military establishment, from whom the researcher borrows trust (to use Dirk Kruijt’s expression). Yet, having access and obtaining formal authorization does not guarantee, on its own, the successful completion of the research. From then on, achieving the research goals will depend on the way in which the researcher establishes interactions in the field and how the research is perceived by the participants. This idea emerges clearly from Alejandra Navarro’s work, where access is understood as a critical, dynamic and flexible process through which the researcher has to engage in a process of permanent negotiation. Furthermore, as she well documents, the nature and characteristics of this process

will determine many other choices throughout the development of fieldwork. This picture can change if the researcher is an insider, a service member or a civilian working in the military or in defence-related functions. Nevertheless, justifying the research and negotiating access remain critical. Some of the experiences described in this book account for this situation and further explore the relational and ethical implications of particular ties between the researcher and the military organization. Langer and Pietsch clearly identify the dilemma:

for those researchers who work outside the military (e.g. at civil universities), field access is often difficult to gain; and for those who work inside the military (e.g. at research institutes of the armed forces), scientific independence to choose research topics and methods autonomously and publish the research results freely may be restricted by institutional demands.