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Code of Conduct

Researchers Responsibilities by Research Approach

T. Ethnographic/Observational Approaches



Observational or ethnographic research are defined as any research form which relies significantly upon the observation of human behaviour as one of its data sources, whether MR subjects are openly observed (participant observation) or covertly or indirectly observed (non-participant).


Images of people on film and audio recordings of them would be considered as personal data under Data Protection legislation.



When conducting ethnographic market research, researchers are advised to:

  • Inform MR subjects of the overall reasons for the observation of their behaviour.
  • Clarify in writing and gain documented agreement as to the precise nature of the research and the responsibilities of each party.
  • Inform MR subjects of the extended nature of ethnographic research at the point of recruitment before they agree to participate. Timings should be clear.
  • Inform MR subjects at recruitment of any activities they will be asked to undertake.
  • Use language that is understandable.
  • Explain significant factors that could influence the person’s willingness to participate (such as risks, discomfort, adverse effects, or limitations on confidentiality).
  • Guard against unwarranted intrusion; so safeguards and the ability to end the observation quickly should be built in – the right to withdraw MUST be respected.



There are a number of constraints upon how covert observational data may be collected and used:

  • Where recordings for market research purposes are made in public areas e.g. in store, signs MUST be displayed indicating:
    • Who is recording
    • Purpose of recording
    • Means of contact - phone number
  • Signage should be displayed with some prominence in a large and readable typeface.
  • Cameras MUST be sited so that they monitor only the intended areas.


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