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Navigating Entrée and Ethics in Deviance Research

Case
By: Melissa F. Lavin Published: 2018 | Product: SAGE Research Methods Cases in Sociology
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Abstract

It is important to apply ethical standards when conducting sociological research. Applying ethical standards in research is especially important for investigators who work directly with the people that they study. Ethnographers talk with research subjects regularly and often spend a tremendous amount of time with them through the course of their work. Ethical norms and procedures are especially complicated when investigators are working with marginalized groups, which include, but are not limited to, children, pregnant women, incarcerants, and citizens engaged in illegal or stigmatizing activities. This case study explores the logistics and ethics of conducting ethnography in “deviant” field settings and offers strategies to promote ethical research. Specifically, I discuss gaining entrée in field research, including the importance of lived experience and social networks; I discuss casual and formal interviewing that investigators perform in and out of their field sites; I explore the importance of maintaining the confidentiality and anonymity of research subjects; and I mention the legal consequences that can befall “deviant” groups under study if investigators are careless.

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