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Does the research method of participant observation (P. O.) reveal more about the society observed or about the cultural preoccupations of the observer?

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Block 1: Observation Does the research method of participant observation (P. O.) reveal more about the society observed or about the cultural preoccupations of the observer? Introduction Within this report I will be looking at whether participant observation is a valid research method by looking at whether the results actually depict the reality. By doing this I will look at the replicability of the ethnography and also seeing if another researcher can get the same results. If replicating the results is difficult then factors such as the ethnicity, personality, age and sex of the researcher may have an affect on the results collected. By doing this I will look at Margaret Mead and Derek Freeman's work to demonstrate the differences in ethnographic interpretation. I will also use some ethnographic examples to demonstrate the usefulness of participant observation. I will first try to define what participant observation is, and following this I will give an example of participant observation using what we did in class and the exercise we took part in outside class. Participant observation seeks to find the real meaning and help to understanding the behavior of others. Participant observation aims to gain greater depth by being accepted by the participants he or she is observing and becoming not an outsider but "one of them" and blending into the "norm" participant observation involves the researcher to "become part of a daily round, learning languages and meanings, rules of impersonal, relations... ...read more.


This was a religious event completely new to me, which changed my preconceptions or stereotypes which are given to me by the media. When I first entered the mosque I was nervous and unsure but many people especially my participant put me at ease and introduced me to Muslim ritual in a very welcoming way. Before entering the mosque I thought that maybe my presence would upset or disturb some who pray but I got completely the opposite reaction. My participant was very enthusiastic about teaching me the Islamic way of life. It was very calm and peaceful place. We talked about mosques being places where terrorism evolved and she said that people like that who call themselves Muslims are not, and that Allah (their God) would not approve. She also said that she has never experiences anybody talking of terrorism in a mosque, and she also stated that many Muslims are very happy to teach the west of their beliefs and that they are not what the media projects. I realized that they were extremists, but not in the way painted by the media. They were extreme in a way they followed the Koran precisely in their everyday lives. My participant explained to me how she lives a very religious life and that everything she does revolves around whether it will be accepted by Allah in order to be a good person, and not the negative extremist I see through the media. ...read more.


Their difference in age, gender and personality may be just some of the reasons why such contrasting results were found. Maybe this is a good example to demonstrate that participant observation does in fact reveal more about the researcher's cultural pre occupations? Conclusion Throughout this report I have demonstrated that participant observation can both show the truth about a society for example by forming trusting relationships you can gain more in-depth and representative data using Peter Just work in the Dou Donggo. I have also shown that the cultural pre occupations can affect the observer's findings using Mead and Freeman's work Samoa. However a conclusion cannot be made. I believe that participant observation is one of the best ways of collecting data, which enables us to look back at our history and learn about different cultures. Although some say its from the individuals point of view. I think that it is far more effective that questionnaires, surveys or the artificial setting of the laboratory. Observing a culture in its natural setting, gaining good relationships with your subjects is a great way of collecting data. However I do not believe that this can be done by anyone, you must be experienced, patient and live the same way as them in every way possible to gain truthful results. For this report I carried out my first participant observation exercise and found it daunting but exiting. I realised the experience that is needed and found that the more time you spend with your subjects the more you learn about the particular culture. ...read more.

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