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Assess the usefulness of participant observation in sociological research

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Assess the usefulness of participant observation in sociological research One of the most popular and widely used research methods is Participant Observation. Participant observation involves the observer in the activities of the people in that society, so that instead of just observing the people, the observer is able to get a more hands-on experience of how these people live their lives. There are all sorts of problems with simple observation. There are places where observers are prohibited - in government, in much of business, and often in the bedroom, but even where a person is allowed in the existence of a passive observer sat in a corner perhaps taking notes disturbs the participants and makes them change their behaviour. One solution is to observe a situation where the presence of observers is considered more normal, but these are few and far between. Another strategy is to be in a place so often and for so long that it becomes normal to be there. ...read more.


The other thing about participant observation is that it is good fun and you can make friends. Participant observation is very often inductive in actual method so you find certain things happening that put a whole new impetus into research, and you then follow up what is in effect a new hypothesis perhaps using other research methods. But there are disadvantages. One is the time required; another is the demand of participation, which may be illegal or dangerous. There is the potential of psychological change to who you are. The researcher can be accused of being subjective, especially if seen to be sympathetic, but even if only because of the necessary interpretation and retelling of the data. Furthermore you can never get away from the researcher effect, unless it is successfully covert. The disadvantages of participant observation are that it is sometimes unwelcome by the society being studied; as they often feel disturbed and that the anthropologist is invading their privacy. ...read more.


There are also some Problems of society: The people being studied often feel disturbed, distracted or that their privacy is being invaded when they are being studied by a stranger, who can often seem to be uninvited studying their every move. The people could argue that it is unfair for ethnographers to freely enter into a society and begin to study the people; his ways of thinking and living may often seem very different and unwelcome to certain societies. It is often very difficult for ethnographers to overcome these problems, as it is not easy to find a compromise between that which he wants to do and that which he must do in order to allow the people being studied feel most at ease. Overall participant observations are useful in some ways and also can be a drawback. They are very useful to use in observations however can have some disadvantages. I would probably use this method as it can be quiet valid. ?? ?? ?? ?? Anam Bajwa 12.0 1 ...read more.

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