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.

Debates About Covert Research

3.1 Introduction

This chapter has two broad purposes. First, to historically chart and scope the key debates and controversies surrounding covert research, which have been ongoing for some time. Hence, it is important to critically historicize these debates, which removes one from the botched assumption that the controversy around covert research is only current and contemporary and hence has no roots, which would be erroneous and trivialize the issues involved. Second, to review the current ethical regimentation and bureaucracy in which covert research is saturated, and which effectively fetters and stifles the development of creative and imaginative covert research.

There is an extensive and well-established generalized literature on ethics in the research process, which I do not aim to review in this ...

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