Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Ethical covert research.

Spicker, Paul


Paul Spicker


Covert research is research which is not declared to the research participants or subjects. This is often muddled with deception, and condemned as intrinsically unethical. The basis of that condemnation is a legitimate concern with the rights of research subjects. It is, however, over-generalized. Research subjects do have rights, but they are not the only people with rights. They may have some say about the use of information, but not all information is under their control. They are entitled to privacy, but not everything is private. Undeclared, undisclosed research in informal settings has to be accepted as a normal part of academic enquiry. This journal article has now been reprinted as a book chapter in Scott-Jones, J. (ed). Research ethics in practice, vol 2. London: Sage, chapter 16.


SPICKER, P. 2011. Ethical covert research. Sociology [online], 45(1), pages 118-133. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 4, 2011
Online Publication Date Feb 4, 2011
Publication Date Feb 28, 2011
Deposit Date Oct 2, 2013
Publicly Available Date Oct 2, 2013
Journal Sociology
Print ISSN 0038-0385
Electronic ISSN 1469-8684
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 1
Pages 118-133
Keywords Covert; Ethics; Limited disclosure; Research
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations