Above the Law: Research Methods, Ethics, and the Law of Privilege

10 Pages Posted: 21 Mar 2002

Date Written: March 2002


In Anticipating Law: Research Methods, Ethics and the Law of Privilege, -- J. Sociological Methodology -- (2002), Ted Palys and John Lowman set forth the rationale for a "researcher-participant privilege" and advise scholars how best to preserve the confidentiality of their research in the face of a legal system that has not looked kindly on such a privilege. Although recognition of a researcher-participant privilege would, on balance, be beneficial, the case for the privilege is hardly self-evident. This paper reviews some of the reasons why courts and legislatures have not embraced such a privilege. The paper also explores the advice Palys and Lowman offer researchers in the absence of such a privilege (to promise research-participants absolute confidentiality, even if the researcher will have to defy a court order to satisfy the promise) and concludes that their advice is unwise and, arguably, unethical.

Suggested Citation

Stone, Geoffrey R., Above the Law: Research Methods, Ethics, and the Law of Privilege (March 2002). Journal of Sociological Methodolgy, 2002. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=304482 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.304482

Geoffrey R. Stone (Contact Author)

University of Chicago Law School ( email )

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Chicago, IL 60637
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773-702-4907 (Phone)

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