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.

A Revival in Covert Research

It is my contention that both the contemporary appetite and popularity for covert research is growing in various academic communities, for a number of different reasons. This is additionally interesting and somewhat ironic in the current context of increasing ethical regimentation. What I hope to do in this chapter is to explore the reasons and contexts for this renaissance or revival, which are not coherently interrelated, but come from multiple sources. I have categorized and made sense of these sources, respectively, as autoethnography, covert social networks, cyber ethnography, investigative journalism and visual ethnography. Clearly, each area is a field in itself, but what I hope to do is to display how these disparate developments have collectively resulted in a ...

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