(noun) An individual that shares knowledge with a researcher from an insider’s perspective, particularly for ethnographic research.

Example: The Community Outreach and Volunteer Coordinator at a domestic violence shelter that facilitates access to staff members and volunteers for research purposes.

Audio Pronunciation: (in·for·mant)

Download Audio Pronunciation: informant.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: informants
  • A type of individual.
  • The term informant and respondent are often used interchangeably; however they are separate terms. Informant connotes qualitative research and respondent connotes quantitative research.
  • Type: key informant (also called gatekeeper) – (noun) A primary source for an ethnographic researcher that often enthusiastically shares information and facilitates access to other people.
  • Also called:
    • participant
    • source
  • An informant (verb) informs and is an (noun) informer.

Related Quotations:

  • “An informant is neither a subject in a scientific experiment nor a respondent who answers the investigator’s questions. An informant is a teacher who has a special kind of student: a professional anthropologist [or sociologist]” (Spradley and McCurdy 2008:4).
  • Ethnographers seek out the insider’s viewpoint. Because culture is the knowledge people use to generate behavior and interpret experience, the ethnographer seeks to understand group members’ behavior from the inside, or cultural, perspective. Instead of looking for a subject to observe, ethnographers look for an informant to teach them the culture” (Spradley and McCurdy 2008:4).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 


Spradley, James P., and David W. McCurdy. 2008. Conformity and Conflict: Readings in Cultural Anthropology. 13th ed. Boston: Pearson Education.

Works Consulted

Jary, David, and Julia Jary. 2000. Collins Dictionary of Sociology. 3rd ed. Glasgow, Scotland: HarperCollins.

Macmillan. (N.d.) Macmillan Dictionary. (

Merriam-Webster. (N.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (

How to Cite the Definition of Informant

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “informant.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 20, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

informant. (2014). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2014. “informant.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 20, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“informant.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2014. Web. 20 May. 2019. <>.