• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Assess the view that what participant observation lacks in terms of reliability & representativeness, it more than makes up for in terms of validity.

Extracts from this document...


Assess the view that what participant observation lacks in terms of reliability & representativeness, it more than makes up for in terms of validity. Participant Observation is where the researcher infiltrates themselves into a certain group or gang to study them from within. The researcher usually puts themselves in a position where they are in the main part of the group, and they usually study the activities and attitudes of the different gang/group members. The observation is usually carefully thought through, & it is usually recorded in field notes, and can often take months, even years to complete. Participant Observation usually doesn't start with a definite hypothesis, so new ideas and thoughts about the group or the way that an idea may turn out usually come through when the observer is part of the group. You can either do overt (people know you are doing it) or covert (undercover) observations, or even a combination of both. Although this may seem like a very kosher method to use, there are quite a few disadvantages of doing this; Bias is a concern because if the observer starts being drawn into the group, their own views will be abandoned because they may start seeing things through the group's eyes, and may blind the researcher to other views that may be available. ...read more.


Also, you can generate new ideas from being in a new group, and this can lead you to new perspectives and ideas. You also get more of the truth and honesty if you are doing overt participant observation, so you can quite easily prove or disprove any hypotheses you have come up with. You are also to dig deeper into the group so to speak, because if you are a part of the group, then you can uncover issues that may normally remain hidden or are secretive. Participant observation is also dynamic because if you are with a group over time, you understand how they work and how attitudes and behaviour change over time. Lastly, you can dig deeper into areas that you aren't typically able to reach, for example, with young offenders or religious groups. It is, however, simplistic to assume that participant observation will automatically produce valid results, as there are many threats to this validity; Interpretivists place great importance on an observer not disturbing the normal social routine of a group, but the presence of an observer is more likely than not to affect peoples' behaviour. This is particularly a problem with overt observation, because if the group knows that they are being observed, then they are quite likely to change their behaviour. ...read more.


observed, then they may not be happy to give their consent about something like this, and the researcher could be placed in a dangerous situation because people may feel that they have been deliberately mislead and lied to, and so the data may not be valid because it isn't being gotten with consent of the subjects being studied. Finally, there are also practical problems with participant observation in general because the observer may often be tired or feel stressful at the end of a long day, and so they may not want to or even have time to write anything down, and even if they do, it may be wrong or changed, discerning it's reliability and validity. In conclusion to the points in this essay, I think that Participant Observation may lack sometimes in the reliability and validity of it, but if you have to study the more in depth issues like Crime and illegal activities, then Covert Observation may be the only way to get the data that you are looking for because you can't really go in depth if they know that you are observing them, but if they don't suspect that you are doling something like that, then you have a better chance of getting the data that you are looking to get. SAMANTHA JONES 12.5. SOCIOLOGY SHELLY DAVIS ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Social Psychology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Social Psychology essays

  1. Psychology Questions Ansewered

    [10] c) How valuable is it to study whether behaviour is learned or inherited? Give reasons for your answer.[10] 4. We can use the findings of psychological studies to improve our understanding of everyday social relationships. Use the studies listed below to answer the questions which follow.

  2. essay of participant observation

    Participant observation may also the only way to really get the truth out from the respondents, unlike questionnaires or interviews, as the researcher actually gets to see the person in action and if the observation is done covertly then there should no reason why the participants should feel they should

  1. Investigating the validity of the matching hypothesis.

    This theory is known as the matching hypotheses. "Similarity in attractiveness between two partners is important. Research has supported the matching hypothesis that people tend to relate to people who are approximately equal to them in evaluated beauty... in the abstract we may prefer the most attractive person, but in

  2. Using information from the items and elsewhere, assess the usefulness of participant observation to ...

    The gang would never admit to these acts in questionnaires or other forms of research, as they never had to answer anything to James, he just went along with what they did. A similar situation is William Whyte's study of a street corner gang in Boston.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work