Sociology - Participant Observation

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  • Created by: Iqra
  • Created on: 19-12-12 09:48
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  • Participant Observation
    • The researcher observes whilst taking part in the group
    • Getting into, staying in and getting out of the group.
      • Some groups are easier to enter. This would depend on personal skills, pure chance. They also have to overcome suspicions and gain the group's trust.
      • Once in, the researcher is faced by a dilemma. Either be involved to fully understand, however they must remain objective. The more time spent with the group, things may go unoticed
      • The researcher can just leave, but there is the problem of making continual adjustments. Loyalty to the group may prevent the researcher from not revealing all that they have learnt.
    • Insight like this creates large amounts of qualitative data.
      • Access - This may be the only way to study certain groups
      • Flexibility - Very flexible. They can enter research openly minded.
        • Fieldwork is very consuming and the marge amounts of data can be hard to analyse and categorise. The researcher also needs training, and could be dangerous.
    • Interpretists believe that they produce valid data, and they produce largely detailed accounts.
    • Positivists reject PO for many unscientific reasons :
      • 1. Represent - Small group is often studied, making it unrepresentative
        • Therefore it cannot be generalised
      • 2. Unsystematic and lacks reliability due to not being a standard scientific method.
        • Researcher relies heavily on personal skills/ also hard to compare due to qual data
      • 3. There is a lack of objectivity due to researcher's involvement
        • May conceal sensitive information/ the researcher must decide what is important
    • Involves decieving others to obtain information
      • Impossible to gain informed consent
        • May have to lie about why they are leaving the group in the end.
          • May have to participate in immoral or illegal acts in order to continue with their 'cover'.
            • Leads to personal attachments, this means that they condone ethically unacceptable behavior.


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