Non- Participant Observations

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Non-Participant Observation

  • Non-Participant Observation: Some sociological research is carried out by observation alone (without the researcher participating) Main reason: Reduce the risk that people will be affected by the presence of a researcher, may also be used when groups might be unwilling to cooperate in research- Ethical issues

- Allows sociologists to observe people in their normal social situations and avoid the Hawthorne Effect: This can only be achieved fully when the observation is carried out without the knowledge of the observer (e.g from a distance by blending into the background,through one-way glass or using video cameras) 

-Problem with this method: Does not allow the researcher to investigate the meanings people attatch to the behaviour that is being observed, data produced may only reflect the assumptions and interpretations of the researcher- Raising issues over reliability and validity

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Non-Participant Observation: Evaluation

  • Covert Non Participant Observation: Watching people from the sidelines without their knowledge, usually in a natural setting. Observers collect data without their meaning

-Advantages: High in validity- Behaviour is not affected, it is naturally occuring, more ecologically valid

-Disadvantages: Not pratical- Gaining access is diffilcult, Issues in deception, Not representative- Only concentrating one small scale sample

  • Overt Non Participant Observation: Watching people from the sidelines with their knowledge

-Advantages: Ethical- Permission given prior to the observation, group knows they are being researched, high in validity

-Disadvantages: Not pratical- Can be dangerous, Not reliable- Hard to assess, Not representative- Smaller sample

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