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With reference to emperical evidence, outline and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of participant obserservation as a research method

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Introduction

With reference to emperical evidence, outline and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of participant obserservation as a research method. This essay will examine how participant observation is used as a research method. In the main body of this essay, this idea will be addressed by pointing out advantages and disadvantages of participant observation. I will give examples to support my argument. Participant observation is the main research method favoured by interpetitivists. It involves the researcher participating in a social group to observe and experience the world as a participant while still observing the group for future analasys of their behaviour from the researchers point of view. The researcher must decide how he will approach the group he wishes to join. ...read more.

Middle

Participants face the problem of objectivity, it is often very time consuming, for example, Beverly Skeggs (1997), spent 12 years researching the lives of women on a 'caring' course in England. Participants also face dangers and can also find themselves in situations they find morally unacceptable or illegal. Quantitative researchers samples are too small and while the researcher may get the bulk of his/her information from structured questions, they are not getting peoples true opinions. The conclusions can only apply to the specific group which the researcher has studied and cannot be generalised or replicated. The observer himself decides what information to select or omit and the fact that the observer is present in overt observations, it is believed that the group will not act naturally. ...read more.

Conclusion

( Whyte 1955.) The main reason that interpretivists use participant observation is validity. Validity refers to how accurate and authentic the data collected is, although some positivist sociologists believe that participant observation should not be used, even when the data is more valid, it is neither a reliable or representative form of research. The researcher who decides on an overt participant observation, may influence the study, as the group which is being studied may acy differently, due to the researchers presence, which then makes it less reliable. David Hargreaves (1967), "Study of secondry school teachers", found that some teachers he observed altered their behaviour, some refused to talk to the class as a whole when he was present, but others appeared to carry on as normal ...read more.

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