The process of gaining research access in the social sciences is becoming increasingly difficult. Changes in legislation and an increasingly managerialist and risk-averse approach to service provision have contributed to organizations adopting a protectionist stance when it comes to granting research access. The student researcher’s experience of negotiating this research access landscape has been neglected. This article explores the findings from three case studies of gaining research access to social service organizations for the purpose of undertaking PhD research. It outlines the reflexive approach which was adopted, through peer support and discussion groups, in order to develop the ideas presented. The article utilizes emerging evidence, policy and identity theory to contextualize and develop understanding around the difficulties experienced in these three case studies. In particular the article highlights how issues of identity impact on the research access process. The article suggests strategies for gaining research access which could be adopted by student researchers, supervisors and universities. The article also recommends that issues to do with research governance and research access be considered in plans aimed at developing social work research capacity.