Advantages and disadvantages of participant observations

HideShow resource information
View mindmap
  • Advantages and Disadvantages of participant observation
    • Disadvantages
      • Practical disadvantages
        • Time consuming, researcher needs to be trained, personally stressful and demanding.
        • Requires observational and interpersonal skills.
        • Some groups may not wish to be studied.
      • Ethical problems
        • Covert observation- deceiving people in order to obtain information about them.
      • Representativ-eness
        • Group studied is usually small and the sample is often selected haphazardly.
      • Reliability
        • Depends on the personal skills and characteristics of a lone researcher- unlikely to be replicated.
        • Produces qualitative data- make comparisons with other studies difficult.
      • Bias and lack of objectivity
        • Risk of becoming too involved and 'going native' makes it difficult to remain objective.
          • Loyalty to the group or fear of reprisals leads the sociologist to conceal sensitive info.
      • Validity
        • Positivists- findings are merely the subjective and biased impressions of the observer.
        • Hawthorne effect- presence of observer may make the subjects act differently.
      • Lack of a concept of structure
        • Interactionists- useful tool for examining micro-level interactions and meanings at first hand.
        • Marxists and functionalists see this as inadequate- tends to ignore the wider structural forces that shape our behaviour, e.g. class inequality.
    • Advantages
      • Validity
        • By observing people, we can obtain rich qualitative data- provides picture of how they really live.
      • Insight
        • Allows researcher to gain empathy through personal experience- gain an insight of the groups way of life, meanings and viewpoints.
      • Flexibility
        • Allows the sociologist to enter the situation with a relatively open mind about what they will find.
      • Practical advantages
        • May be the only viable method for studying certain groups.
          • Example: Yablonsky (1973)- teenage gang is likely to see researchers who come armed with questions as the unwelcome representatives of authority.
        • Can build a rapport with the group and gain trust


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Research methods resources »