There has been a tendency in sociology to see covert and overt roles of social researchers in participant observation studies as opposites. This is both in terms of the researcher role and the surrounding ethics, with the overt researcher role being seen as fundamentally more ethical than the covert participant observer. However, Calvey (2008) alleged that covert practices often remain unreported in overt accounts. The purpose of this paper is therefore to address this issue through reflections on my own research experience. Drawing on my research with the contemporary spiritual milieu in Scotland, I will argue that the covert and overt roles are far from opposites and should be seen as part of a continuum. The moral high ground attributed to overt research is often questionable and most overt studies will employ covert practices. It will therefore be argued that decisions regarding the role of the participant observer should be grounded in the intellectual contemplation of specific research situations, including ethical considerations, rather than condemning sound social enquiry on the misguided basis that overt research is always superior to covert studies because of its ethical standards. In conclusion it will be argued that all researchers have a responsibility to reflect honestly upon their research experience as part of wider reflexive turn in social research.
Sociological Research Online – SAGE
Published: Mar 1, 2009
It’s your single place to instantly
discover and read the research
that matters to you.
Enjoy affordable access to
over 18 million articles from more than
15,000 peer-reviewed journals.
All for just $49/month
Query the DeepDyve database, plus search all of PubMed and Google Scholar seamlessly
Save any article or search result from DeepDyve, PubMed, and Google Scholar... all in one place.
Get unlimited, online access to over 18 million full-text articles from more than 15,000 scientific journals.
Read from thousands of the leading scholarly journals from SpringerNature, Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford University Press and more.
All the latest content is available, no embargo periods.
“Hi guys, I cannot tell you how much I love this resource. Incredible. I really believe you've hit the nail on the head with this site in regards to solving the research-purchase issue.”Daniel C.
“Whoa! It’s like Spotify but for academic articles.”@Phil_Robichaud
“I must say, @deepdyve is a fabulous solution to the independent researcher's problem of #access to #information.”@deepthiw
“My last article couldn't be possible without the platform @deepdyve that makes journal papers cheaper.”@JoseServera