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 Classic Exemplars in Covert Research

4.1 Introduction

This is not a definitive or exhaustive list of classic covert exemplars but a collection of popular, recognizable and commonly identified ones in the covert literature. There is a type of ‘conventional wisdom’ found in ethics and research methodology genres around what the covert classics are. If routinely quizzed, most of the social science community would have at least some, if not all, of these standard exemplars of covert research in mind, or what I call the ‘usual suspects’.

Clearly, each study has a different part to play in the history and legacies of their individual field. What I hope to do in this chapter is to summarize and make sense of the key covert aspects of these ...

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