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Participant Observation.

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Participant Observation Participant Observation is the study of a culture or society usually carried out by living for an extended period of time with its members. The participant-observer takes part in everyday life and carefully records such things as behaviour, events and conversations, in order to obtain a fully rounded picture of beliefs, social groupings and customs. There are two different forms of Participant Observation: Overt observation is when the subjects are aware they are being observed and allow the observer in to their lives, this is often the most criticised form due to bias, Covert observation is when the subjects are not aware they are being observed and therefore the process has to remain secret to remain relevant. ...read more.


However Participant Observation is often criticised due to the possible bias that may occur from forming relationships with those involved in the study. Due to the considerable time spent on the study (usually around 3-9 months) and around the subjects the observer may find it hard to refrain from becoming too involved with them which would definitely distort his professional outlook. Contrarily, working so close with a particular society means you gain relevant first-hand information. By experiencing the customs, actions and rules of a society first-hand you can begin to interpret these with a greater understanding than by use of any other method. ...read more.


This is most common in gang situations for example when anthropologist James Patrick conducted his study 'A Glasgow gang observed' he eventually had to abandon his research as he found out he would have to fight another gang member to stay in the gang. To conclude, Participant observation is not perfect. It provides danger to the observer and also challenges the observer's ethics over subject's demands. Whereas this method provides the anthropologist with: first hand and valid information, the experience of taking part in a particular culture and also a greater knowledge and understanding of different cultures. Participant Observation gives ethnographers great social experience and knowledge of diverse societies and is an extremely valuable research method. 09/05/07 Samantha Park ...read more.

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