Undercover research is an emotive and controversial field often equated with deception and transgression. Using classic examples and contemporary case studies this book challenges covert research’s dispersed place within the social sciences and rehabilitates its reputation as a powerful research method. Drawing in part on his own undercover research into the night-time economy of bouncers, the author explores the roots and evolution of covert research; his deft treatment of the fear and fascination within furtive fieldwork is grounded in the practicality of the methods and tools needed to conduct quality research in the field. Packed with learning-by-example tips, this book shows that with critical imagination and proper ethical foundations, covert research could be a great addition to your methodological toolkit.

The Roots of Covert Research

There are various forms of early covert research in the social sciences, from a diverse and disparate range of intellectual sources. I have grouped them into four broad categories of investigative journalism, mass observation, psychology and sociology. As expected, there are considerable and dedicated literatures on these fields, and a review of each is clearly not the purpose of this current book. I will be examining specific aspects of these fields that are relevant to our concerns about the early roots of covert research in a broadly chronological fashion. I will explore four key case studies – Nellie Bly (1887), Paul Cressey (1932), Leon Festinger et al. (1956) and Melville Dalton (1959) – from these different fields in the ...

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