A3 Observation

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  • Created on: 11-06-13 13:41
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Non Participant Observation (Overt and Covert) Participant Observation (Overt and Covert)
ractical Issues
Time And Money
It is much quicker and simpler to do compared to participant
observations, a more representative sample can be studied, from +
which firmer generalisations can be made It gives us insight into other people's lives by allowing us to The field work is very time consuming and
Skills and
characteristics of the put ourselves in their place known as VERSTEHEN may take years to complete
researcher It is less risky, the observer remains detached. By avoiding meaning empathy or subjective understanding Produces large amounts of qualitative data so may be hard
Subject Matter involvement, they do not influence the groups behaviour and they do Produces large amounts of rich, detailed qualtitative data to analyse
Research Opportunity not `go native' and lose objectivity Very flexible as you do not have to start with a structured Need to be well trained
Access set of questions Requires skills that not everyone possesses
Recording Information Might be useful where a researcher only needed to spend a short Overt ­ Powerful groups may be able to prevent a new member
amount of time observing The participants know they are part of the experiment joining
Researcher can behave normally and does not have to put Overt
Covert methods are often suitable for `difficult to reach' groups or on an act The group may refuse entry
those groups or institutions which don't welcome the presence of Do not need any special knowledge or characteristics Risks creating the Hawthorne effect, which results in
observers for whatever reason. Researcher can ask naïve but important questions as an people behaving differently because they know they are
outsider being observed
Researchers can use more aids for recording info as it is open Can take notes openly and do not have to rely on memory Covert
Must keep up an act and this can be stressful and
Can use interviews or other methods to check insights
Can opt out of any dangerous or illegal activities demanding
The presence of researcher can affect the group Covert ­ May need detailed knowledge of the groups' way of life
`The Hawthorne effect' and `interviewer effect' territory, like with any The participants do not know they are part of the before joining
other qualitative research situation, which could lead research to be experiment Cannot ask naïve questions at the risk of being exposed
invalid Have to rely on memory and write notes in secret
More chance of fitting in and finding out detailed information
The group may not act naturally
Less risk of altering the groups' behaviour because they Cannot combine any `overt' methods
Time consuming and expansive compared to other research don't know they are being observed May have to engage in dangerous or illegal activities
Researcher can't ask further questions and therefore can't discover
the meanings attached to events
E thical Issues
Deception Involves `spying' on people without their knowledge or
consent (covert)
Intrudes on privacy
Confidentiality Researcher must maintain confidentiality by not naming anyone who took part in the experiment and
do not show pictures of their faces
Informed consent If doing an overt observation, researcher must gain consent from participants before doing the
Informed Consent
Confidentiality could be an issue ­ researcher should not uses observation. May be a problem if doing an observation in schools as parents consent is needed and this will take time
Physical and
names, numbers should be used instead to ensure the people Deception Unethical to deceive people in order to obtain information by pretending to be their friend
Psychological harm being observed do not have their identity revealed when the research Covert observations may have to lie about why they are leaving the group at the end of their research and others simply
Confidentiality and findings are published abandon the group without explanation
Privacy May have to participate in immoral or illegal activities

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Theoretical Issues
Positivists like it!
Precoded observational categories allow the sociologist to produce
quantitative data, identify and measure behaviour patterns and
Interpretivists like it
They test how far this method is able to produce valid data
They argue that by experiencing the life of the group at first hand, researchers are able to get close to peoples' lived reality and
Theoretical Perspectives establish the causeandeffect relationships.…read more

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