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Anonymity in Applied Communication Research: Tensions Between IRBs, Researchers, and Human Subjects

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Abstract:

This essay examines the rather complex role of anonymity in communication research as revealed in the narratives submitted to this special issue. First, narratives were examined quantitatively to assess the prevalence of issues related to anonymity, with terms such as “anonymous” and “confidential” emerging most often. Next, a thematic analysis of the narratives suggests five tensions discussed in some detail: anonymity or (not and) confidentiality, over-promising and under-delivering anonymity, to sign and record … or not, named vs. anonymous vs. pseudonymous, and whether institutional review boards (IRBs) should be anonymous. The essay concludes with several applied recommendations for IRBs, researchers, and participants as they confront these tensions linked to the role of anonymity in human subjects research.

Keywords: Anonymity; Human Subjects Research; Institutional Research Board

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/00909880500149445

Affiliations: Department of Communication Studies, The University of Texas, Austin

Publication date: August 1, 2005

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