THE RESEARCH CONTRACT
AND THE PRINCIPLE OF
Permission for the research to be carried out was, of course, obtained before the documentary study began, but Jan felt, quite rightly, that she should make absolutely sure that she and the likely stakeholders interpreted the wording of the originally agreed conditions of research in the same way. As we keep saying, words can mean different things to different people and there was no room for any later and unanticipated hitches which might have jeopardized the investigation. It's always as well to be absolutely sure that permission given in principle holds good in practice.
Many ethnographers (and other qualitative and quantitative researchers, come to that) stress the importance of establishing some sort of 'contract' with the research participants and organizations to be studied, and this is sound practice – from the point of view of all concerned. Lutz specifies what, in his opinion, should always be agreed beforehand.
Such a 'contract' may include specifications about what
records may and may not be examined; where the ethno-
grapher may or may not go, when, and under what circum-
stances; which meetings may be attended and which are
closed; how long the researcher will stay in the field; who
(if anyone) has access to the field notes, and even who has