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Participant observation
How do we really find out about the way of life of a group of people? One way is to join them ­ to
participate in their daily activities & observe what they say and do. This research method is known as
participant observation.
It was used…

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background is usually recommended, though this is not always possible. For example, a participant
observer in a classroom can stand out like a sore thumb. This can result in an `artificial' lesson.
However, its surprising how soon he or she becomes invisible and taken for granted. In his study of…

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By watching and listening, a participant observer has the chance to discover the priorities and
concerns, the meanings and definitions of people in their everyday situations. There may therefore be
less likelihood of distorting people's view of the world.
Practicality Sometimes participant observation may be the only method with any…

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particularly hostile to sociology'. Laud Humphreys (1970) argues that covert participant observation is
the only practical way to observe the `tearoom trade' ­ causal sexual encounters between gay men in
public toilets. He justifies his research because it destroys various harmful myths eg, straight people
are not drawn into gay…


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