To Be or Not to Be…Revealing Questions of Anonymity and Confidentiality

  • Thirusha NaiduEmail author


Researchers are constantly challenged in maintaining participants’ anonymity in social and health research. Challenges arise when participants’ request to relinquish anonymity or can be recognised in published material. In this chapter, I consider possible circumstances and conditions where researchers might forego disguising or concealing participants’ identity. Three examples are presented. In the first, the participant requested her identity be revealed in a case study where Poetry Therapy was used for anxiety about spinal surgery. The consequences of divulging participants’ identities in community-based research are considered through two studies where participants’ identities are revealed at their request or inadvertently. The latter are considered in relation to participants’ agency, context, and forms where identity is disclosed. Principles of community and individual consent around anonymity are discussed.



I would like to thank the participants in the three research studies whose actions and agency challenged me to reconsider accepted research ethics conventions in the field. I would also like to thank my colleagues Sifiso Shabangu, Yvonne Sliep, and Neil Prose who collaborated with me on the three different projects.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of KwaZulu-NatalDurbanSouth Africa

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