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Assess the Usefulness of Participant Observation To Sociologists.

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ASSESS THE USEFULNESS OF PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION TO SOCIOLOGISTS. Participant observation is one method used to collect qualitative data for research. This method involves researchers putting themselves in the lives of the people being studied. This is generally done by joining the group and participating as much as possible, to become an accepted part of that particular group. In doing this the researcher can observe peoples behaviour in their normal settings first hand, and gain an in-depth understanding of the lives of that group. In order for a researcher to study a particular group using this method, they have to become part of or join that group. Researchers will adopt either: an 'overt role' whereby they would declare their true identity and purpose to the group. ...read more.


Whilst the covert role helps increase the safety of the researcher and makes it easier to gain access to the group, it is 'unethical'. If people are not aware they are being studied, they do not have the opportunity to give their consent. This means that the participants are being deceived. On the other hand, 'overt participation is ethical. Participants are informed about the nature of the research. A disadvantage with this is that the presence of the researcher may make the group act less naturally. For example: 'Whyte'states in 'street corner society' [1955] that Knowledge of his presence and intentions may have changed the behaviour of the gang. ...read more.


However the research diary can also be a real weakness of the research. It can be very difficult to write up in the diary on a daily basis. Delays in recording information could make remembering the exact details of the day's activities difficult. This decreases the validity of the research. In conclusion, participant observation is about engaging in a social scene, experiencing it and looking to understand and explain it. The researcher is the medium through which this takes place. By listening and experiencing, impressions are formed and theories considered, reflected upon, developed and modified. Participant observation is not an easy method to perform or to analyse but despite the disadvantages, it is a systematic and disciplined study, which, if done well, greatly assists in understanding human actions and brings with it new ways of seeing the social world ...read more.

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