RM - Observation

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  • Created by: Muy
  • Created on: 21-04-13 03:06

Types of observations

Non participant observation, the researcher simply observes

Participant observation, researcher observes and takes part

Overt observation, researchers indentity/purpose are known

Covert observation, researcher conceals identity/purpose

Structured observation, observations recorded using a schedule or checklist

Unstructured participant observation used by interpretivists

Structured non participant observation used by positivists

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Participant observation

Getting in means the researcher requires a role that'll permit them to make observations of the groups normal behaviour

Some groups are easier to enter e.g. football crowd compared to criminal gang, and the observer may have to overcome suspicions and earn trust

Staying in... Once accepted they must be immersed in the group to understand it fully BUT they must remain detached/objective

Longer time spent in the group means they'll cease to notice things that would've struck them as noteworthy

Getting out is less of a problem, but if the research is on and off theres a problem with making continual readjustments

Loyalty to the group may prevent the researcher from disclogin everything

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Issues in PO

Verstehen - gaining INSIGHT in other peoples lives by putting oneself in their places, this produces detailed qualitative data

PO may be needed for certain groups e.g. gangs suspicions on outsiders

PO is flexible as researchers can formulate new hypothesis from their experiences

PO is is time consuming, producing large amounts of qualitative data which can be hard to analyse and categorise... It can sometimes be stressful and dangerous

Overt PO - researcher can behave normally, opt out of dangerous activities, need no special knowledge/personal characteristics, ask naive yet important questions, take notes openly, may be prevented from entering/getting in, risks hawthorne affect undermining validity

Covert PO -  must maintain an act and may need special knowledge, may engage in dangerous actvities, no way of obtaining data, cannot ask naive questions, write notes in secret, doesn't risk altering groups behaviour

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Theoretical issues in PO

Interpretivists favour PO as it produces valid data

PO involved high level of involvement, first hand experience means the researcher get closer to peoples lived reality... It avoids merely giving us a snapshot

PO is flexible, researchers modify idea to produce 'grounded theory' - concepts/hypothesis grounded in the observed realities rather than imposed by the researcher

Positivists reject use of PO

Its not representative as groups studied are often small

PO provides internally valid insights, not externally valid (generalisations)

PO lacks reliability, its not standardised, scientific measuring instrument

Research depends heavily on the personal skills of the lone researcher

These characteristics make it difficult to replicate the study so its findings may not be true

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Theoretical issues in PO

Qualitative data produces from PO makes comparisons difficult

Researchers deep involvement with the groups means a lack of objectivity and over identifying with the group

Sociologists may conceal sensitive information

Positivists argue PO findings reflect the values/subjective impressions of the observer, e.g. the researcher selects which data to include and which to omit -> this undermines validity

Positivists use structured observations, usually structured non participant observation BECAUSE 

- its quicker which means a larger and more representative sample

- the observers detached, they dont go 'native' nor lose objectivity

- uses standardised observational categories (produces reliable quantitative data)

- interpretivists reject SOs as it imposes the reseachers view of realitiy

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Ethics and observation

It deceives people, its hard to gain informed consent (avoid Hawthorne effect), participation of immoral/illegal acts and

- PO leads to close attachment to the group risking over identifying, risk of condoning unethical behaviour

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