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.

Doing Covert Research in the Social Sciences

5.1 Introduction

There is a rich and eclectic submerged tradition of covert studies that is not always referred to as part of the conventional wisdom on covert literature. Hence, several significant studies are not regularly discussed, indeed some are omitted. This extensive covert diaspora in the social sciences needs to be recovered, rehabilitated and shared.

What I hope to highlight here is the serious glossing problem with covert research. Namely, there is a constant problem of circumspection in that many researchers describe their role in various ethnographies as participant observation, in continued, direct or prolonged forms, as unobtrusive research, field study, or fieldwork, which may involve covert work, wittingly or otherwise, but this is not always made explicit ...

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