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Advantages and disadvantages of covert and overt participation

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Introduction

Outline and explain the advantages and disadvantages of covert and overt roles in participant observation Participant observation refers to a form of sociological research methodology in which the researcher takes on a role in the social situation under observation. Covert observation involves the researcher fully participating in the activities of the social group without informing them, thus the research is carried out secretly. The researcher could gain access into the group through contact with a gatekeeper who would introduce him or her to the group. Overt participation on the other hand is when the researcher is open about the purpose of his presence and is given permission to perform this research by the person in the highest state of authority. ...read more.

Middle

This type of research is termed to be much naturalistic since it aims to discover the nature of the interviewee or sample being researched. The observer also less influences this research as long as they see the researcher as part of them. It is a much flexible approach since the researcher does not pre-judge the issue by deciding in advance what is or is not important when studying social behaviour. It however, has its own problems. The researcher may be forced into being involved with the group being studied. For example in item A, the researcher had to be drawn into the interaction with these seven year olds without the consent of their parents which might be an important ethical issue here. ...read more.

Conclusion

An example of a famous overt observation is William F.Whyte study on Street Corner Society, (1943) where he was protected from potential antagonism by his friendship with 'Doc', his sponsor. However, Whyte, despite employing an overt participant observer role, did increasingly come to view himself as 'one of the gang' during his fieldwork research. However, problems associated with overt observation could be the observer's effect i.e. where the behaviour of those being studied may alter due to the presence of the researcher. In E. Baker's 'The making of a Moonie', his research could be said to lack validity because the members would have acted in a way which appeals to the researcher. ?? ?? ?? ?? Ekow Simpson ...read more.

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    When time is of the essence, participant observation would obviously not be appropriate for sociological research and other methods may be better suited. Furthermore, such studies cannot be replicated, so the results cannot be checked. It is therefore difficult to compare the results with the findings of other studies.

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