Analyzing Lying During Fieldwork: What to do When Participants Don’t Tell the Truth
Ethnography often requires deep immersion in field sites and fostering close relationships with people in those settings. However, sometimes research participants lie. This talk will offer a framework on how researchers can approach and analyze lies they encounter in the field. Drawing upon data collected from a study of neighborhood members fighting to recruit a grocery to store to their side of town, I will show how lying (by omission and commission) can be a strategic political practice. I will also outline a series of steps and checks for fieldworkers to engage in order to gain a full understanding of participants’ motivations and rationales for how, why, and when they chose not to tell the truth.
Ken Kolb is the author of Retail Inequality: Reframing the Food Desert Debate, which was a finalist for a 2023 James Beard Foundation book award in the category of “food issues and advocacy” and was the winner of the 2023 book prize awarded by the Association for the Study of Food and Society.
Ever since returning from the Peace Corps to finish his Ph.D. in Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Ken Kolb has spent the past 20 years conducting community-based research. He analyzes social problems with the goal of proposing practical solutions that harness readily available resources.
By conducting in-depth interviews and spending time with neighborhood groups, Kolb seeks to empower the people he studies by providing them with the data they need to convince policymakers to take their complaints seriously.
Ken Kolb is an expert on social inequality, community development, and pragmatic solutions to persistent social problems.
He is currently conducting research for his next book about the Mississippi River, shipping, and the Port of New Orleans.
- Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- M.A., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
- B.A., Bates College