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In defence of anonymity: rejoining the criticism

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Abstract:

This article is a response to the growing criticisms of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) ethical guidelines on anonymity and pseudonymity as default positions for participants in qualitative educational research. It discusses and responds to those criticisms under four headings—illusion, impossibility and undesirability, access and quality—and extends the explication of difficulties to quantitative approaches using an example from value-added effectiveness research. The article discusses potential flaws in the arguments made against anonymous and pseudonymous research, and presents some issues for the research community to take forward. Finally, some suggestions are offered for a modified code of practice regarding anonymity and pseudonymity, which attempts a more subtle capture of difficulties in the field and qualifies the existing rationale to take account of previously unconsidered technical concerns.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/01411920802044438

Affiliations: Faculty of Law, Arts & Social Science, University of Southampton, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2009

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