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I am assisting with a research paper about a single business. The business owners agreed to participate in the study on condition that their name remain anonymous. What is the proper or common way to anonymity the business? Should a fake name be used? Should readers be told that a fake name was used?

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In your introduction you can explain the context of your study, and the research questions you want to treat. Then, in the last sentence of the introduction you can write something like:

To answer the research question, we treat a case study dealing with a particular company. For privacy reasons we cannot give the exact name of the company, so we will simply refer to it as "the company" throughout this paper.

Then in the paper you can use sentences like:

Productivity in the company was boosted by increasing the light intensity at the workstations

The company that is the focus of our study is a tech company of 500 employees which has grown very much in the last 5 years.

In this way everyone is aware of the fact that a fake name was used.

ps I haven't written any papers that involved this kind of dilemma, but this is what I would do.

  • Frequently people give a pseudo-name to the company. So instead of writing "the company", you might give the pseudo-name "TechX". But yes, your guess is what people frequently do. – Andy W Mar 10 '13 at 14:44
  • I've seen this used on thedailywtf.com where they share face-palm-worthy stories about all things that have to do with IT. If there is a company involved they'll use a mock name like Global IT corp. – Paul Hiemstra Mar 10 '13 at 14:57

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