Is it the end for anonymity as we know it? A critical examination of the ethical principle of anonymity in the context of 21st century demands on the qualitative researcher

Liz Tilley, Kate Woodthorpe

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Told from the perspective of two UK-based early career researchers, this article is an examination of contemporary challenges posed when dealing with the ethical principle of anonymity in qualitative research, specifically at the point of dissemination. Drawing on their respective doctoral experience and literature exploring the difficulties that can arise from the application of anonymity with regard to historical and geographical contexts, the authors question the applicability of the principle of anonymity alongside pressures to disseminate widely. In so doing, the article considers anonymity in relation to the following: demonstrating value for money to funders; being accountable to stakeholders; involvement in knowledge transfer; and the demands of putting as much information ‘out there’ as possible, particularly on the internet. In light of these pressures, the article suggests that the standard of anonymity in the context of the 21st century academic world may need to be rethought.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-212
Number of pages16
JournalQualitative Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011



  • knowledge transfer
  • ethics
  • dissemination
  • anonymity
  • accountability

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