Numerous posts on this site address anonymous or pseudonymous publication, but not anonymous or pseudonymous fieldwork.

There plausibly exist situations in which a researcher undertaking fieldwork would have to conceal their own identity from non-researchers they encounter in the field, in order to protect themselves or the research project. Here are some possible scenarios:

  • Previous research has shown that the community under study deviates from its normal behaviour when it knows a researcher is present.

  • The researcher would be in danger if their profession or identity were known to people in the field.

  • The researcher plans to publish anonymously or pseudonymously, and would otherwise risk being "outed" by people encountered in the field.

What are some good sources on research ethics that discuss protocols for handling such cases?

Can you provide any published examples describing such fieldwork?

1 Answer 1


This problem appears to have been considered by the social science community, and at least some resources have been prepared. In particular a little searching turned up a book, "Fieldwork, Participation and Practice: Ethics and Dilemmas in Qualitative Research" by Marlene de Laine, which appears to discuss these sorts of issues---the Google Books preview only showed me so much, but there was at least some discussion of covert fieldwork.

  • 1
    Thanks, this is a great find :) When I get time, I'll see if there is any more recent work that builds on de Laine's piece and factors in modern communication technologies and the steadily-increasing risk of de-anonymisation. If anyone beats me to it, do please post new or expanded answers accordingly :)
    – user10623
    Commented Jun 10, 2017 at 15:23

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