Is it right for sociologists to misrepresent themselves or not identify themselves when they do research?
In any type of research, it is important that the researcher identifies themselves, the purpose of their study, and seek consent from the respondents. Sociological research is no exception, and the sociologist is required to abide by the ethical standards of research. They should avoid misrepresenting their designation or purpose. The respondent should be aware of the purpose of the study and the individual or group conducting it.
However, sociologists and other researchers will challenge the idea of full disclosure during research, citing changes on the respondents. Researchers argue that the respondent will always want to present information that is expected or acceptable. The situation is even more complex for sociologists because they study social patterns and relationships. Thus, it is expected that the respondents in a sociological study will only present information that is deemed socially acceptable. Additionally, they will also want to present their views in a politically and culturally correct context.
Although these are some of the reasons for misrepresentation on the part of the sociologists, it is important to maintain full disclosure and convince the respondents to provide honest responses.
This is not an ethical practice for any researcher working with human subjects.
When sociologists do research on human subjects, they must obtain the informed consent of those subjects. In order to do this, they certainly must not misrepresent themselves. They cannot even simply fail to identify themselves as sociological researchers. They must identify themselves and inform their subjects as to the purposes of the research that is being done.
A sociologist who does not identify him or herself to research subjects cannot possibly obtain their informed consent. Failure to obtain informed consent is a major breach of research ethics.