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Critically Assess Observation Methods.

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Introduction

Critically Assess Observation Methods The term Observation Method describes a research method involving the observation of persons to derive and obtain data of a qualitative nature for sociological purposes. There are a variety of different and varying observation methods, each with its distinct disadvantages and advantages. This can be measured on two scales- the Overt/Covert scale which gauges the extent to which research subjects are aware of the observation and the Participant/Non-Participant scale which measures the degree to which the researcher is involved with the research subjects. Positivists, who view sociology as measurable through scientific methods, would not be in favor of observation methods as they see qualitative data as vague and from a narrow sample. On the other hand, interpretivists would be in favor of observation methods, as they view each individual within society as unique, therefore making qualitative data of greater utility. One clear advantage of observation methods would be the fact that it produces vast amounts of detailed qualitative data. Interpretivists would see this as advantageous as they assume every person is a unique social entity. ...read more.

Middle

Research methods could also cost significantly less that conducting mail or phone surveys, or sending out a team of interviewers, hence making the method more practical. Observation methods would also have greater environmental validity as they take place in the natural environment of the issue being studied. On the other hand, Observation Methods also have some striking disadvantages. Overt, participant observation brings about serious problems with the validity of the research. The presence of the researcher, as well as the fact that the research subjects are aware of the research, may lead to results and data being distorted by the Hawthorne Effect, in which research subjects will change their behavior while being watched. This would lead to a reduction in the validity of the research in question as the behavior recorded by the researcher is not an accurate reflection of the group being studied. Self-presentation is also an issue when the observation method is used, as those being observed may try to give a different perception of themselves to the researcher. Observation methods are also plagued by the imposition dilemma- mainly because the researcher must decide what is to be researched and what to record. ...read more.

Conclusion

Observation methods also suffer from significant ethical problems. Covert observation, in which the research subject is unaware of the research, may result in the breech of privacy laws. Observation of groups such as criminal gangs may also result in the researcher being complicit in illegal acts, or failing to report them when they do happen. The deceitful manner in which some observation studies are carried out- in which the actual matter being researched is not revealed- also adds an element of dishonesty and yet another ethical problem. Therefore, it can be said that there are both advantages and disadvantages to the use of observation methods in sociological research. The overall decision on whether this method is of use will depends squarely on the perspective and view taken by the sociologist conducting the research. Positivists would deride observation as narrow and difficult to quantify, while interpretivists would actively advocate the use of observation in order to derive high quality, detailed qualitative data. In conclusion, research methods are of use, but clearly with regards to the gathering of qualitative data, in which it holds a significant advantage over other methods. ?? ?? ?? ?? Edwin Loo 12K 18/02/2007 Sociology Essay Page 1 of 2 ...read more.

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