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What is Participant Observation?
Participant Observation is when Anthropologists get involved in the study of
different cultures by being into the community opposed to Armchair
Observation where one sits in a seat and watches a community from afar. This
sometimes may involve taking part in certain rituals ­ which may cause pain and
misery to the person(s) taking part.
Type of Participant Observation Level of Involvement Limitations
unable to build rapport or
No contact with population
Non-Participatory ask questions as new
or field of study
information comes up.
limits ability to establish
Researcher is only in the
Passive Participation rapport and immersing
bystander role
oneself in the field.
this allows a good
Researcher maintains a
combination of involvement
Moderate Participation balance between "insider"
and necessary detachment
and "outsider" roles
to remain objective.
This method permits the
researcher to become more
Researcher becomes a
involved in the population.
member of the group by
There is a risk of "going
Active Participation fully embracing skills and
native" as the researcher
customs for the sake of
strives for an in-depth
complete comprehension
understanding of the
population studied.
Researcher is completely
integrated in population of There is the risk of losing all
study beforehand (i.e. he or levels of objectivity, thus
Complete Participation
she is already a member of risking what is analyzed and
particular population presented to the public.
Do Don't
Get vaccinated before travelling. Bring new diseases to tribes.
Research beforehand. Spoil other cultures with your own.
Get involved with the community. Put yourself in danger.
Keep an organised record of your findings. Be an Armchair Observer.…read more


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