David Calvey demonstrates that covert research is not an aberrant research method but a substantial analytical tradition in sociology and neighbouring disciplines that has long yielded significant insights into social life. This timely volume will give social scientists a pause for thought.
Discussed with insight and enthusiasm, the qualitative studies in this book are truly something wonderful. They show how covert research—even in the face of controversies—can result in important and beneficial outcomes for the research community.
Covert research has a long and distinguished tradition, and here David Calvey offers us an illuminating journey through the history and genealogy of hidden, discreet and undercover forms of social inquiry. Moving beyond the crude and simplifying dismissals of the ‘ethical textbook’, Calvey makes a compelling case for covert research and its ongoing relevance to the contemporary world.
Calvey's book is a remarkably original contribution, with quite extraordinary documentation. The social scientist as detective is one theme which is now his proprietary accomplishment. The studies reviewed and discussed are extensive and quite unprecedented. This is a work which will surely become a classic of its kind: indeed, that 'kind' is Calvey's own!
The book should find a place on undergraduate and postgraduate reading lists for specialist ethnography modules or more general methods courses. The message that Calvey clearly communicates throughout this book is both a recommendation of covert research and a more general argument for placing greater trust in researchers to manage field relations sensibly and ethically.
Writing and publishing a book such as Covert Research: The Art, Politics and Ethics of Undercover Fieldwork is daring, courageous, stimulating; something that makes us question our certainties, that makes us unquiet, reflective, and sometimes even to lose our ground, what seems fundamental when living in a sick society like ours.
In my view, this book is a must read and must have for every undergraduate student, regardless of the discipline or field of study. It is essential for both the general and experienced researcher in reviewing and perhaps reconsidering fundamental questions in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Dr. Calvey provides a much-needed sober voice of reason and a clear call for dialogue. He has made a significant contribution which will hopefully generate vigorous discussion, debate and hopefully a re-evaluation of a useful and often maligned research technique.
This title is also available on SAGE Research Methods, the ultimate digital methods library. If your library doesn’t have access, ask your librarian to start a trial.