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The Ethics of Covert Ethnographic Research

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The Palgrave Handbook of Ethics in Critical Research

Abstract

Covert ethnographic research is a method in which the researchers do not reveal the true purpose of their presence among the individuals they are observing. In settings where covert research is not restricted by ethics regulations, the choice between masking and revealing one’s identity does not depend solely on the will of the researcher. I illustrate this using three studies in which I conducted covert research within a hospital and two religious organisations. The chapter concludes by describing the factors which urge a resumption of covert research. This may happen only if a strictly deontological perspective is rejected in favour of one that centres on social critique and the difficult search for truth about the most invisible and sensitive aspects of our social lives.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    This is a direct translation. It can also be interpreted as a ‘Guide for New Catechumens’, but the group makes use of the direct translation in its English communications.

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Correspondence to Marco Marzano .

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Marzano, M. (2018). The Ethics of Covert Ethnographic Research. In: Macleod, C., Marx, J., Mnyaka, P., Treharne, G. (eds) The Palgrave Handbook of Ethics in Critical Research. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-74721-7_26

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