Types of Observation
- Non-Participant Observation: Not participating, e.g. observing.
- Participant Observation: Participating.
- Overt: Identity is open and study is known to the group, e.g. school kids.
- Covert: Identity and study is secret to the group, e.g. fake identity to join a gang.
- Structured Participant observation.
- Reliable, genralisability, representative.
- Can measure behaviour patterns, find cause and effect.
- It's Quantitative.
- Unstructured Participant observation.
- Gives insight to social actors like behaviour.
- Trying to get into a group, e.g. criminal gang.
- Making contact, depends on personal skills/ chances.
- Getting accepted, have to win trust/ make friendship. But, researcher ethnicity and social class maybe a problem, e.g. John Griffen.
- How the researcher should act, should he disrupt normal gang routines, create vantage points for observations.
- Once they're in, they need to stay, has to be attached and detached/objective.
- Going Native, researcher may be too involved and become biased/attached to the group.
- May stop observing and start particpating. Groups mystery becomes a norm.
- Easier than getting/staying in.
- Researcher may leave quickly if overt. E.g. Partick and Glasgow gang.
- If now attached to the group, leaving maybe difficult.
- Loyalty may prevent giving out information, e.g. may get a criminal gang arrested.
Researcher identity is known and groups permission is needs.
- Ignores ethical problems like decieving.
- Can ask what outsiders maybe wondering, e.g. "Why steal?".
- Can observe openly.
- Can use interview methods.
- Group may refuse to let them in or see everything.
- May be shown what group only wants them to see.
- May create a Howthorne effect.
- Data may not be valid but artificial.
- Disadvantages of Overt may result to using this.
- Reduces Howthorne effect/ artificial behaviour.
- More valid.
- Keeps everything natural.
- Reseacher had to keep up an act.
- Covert may be blown
- Some criminal gangs may use violence.
- Can't ask outsider questions.
- May have to rely on memory not notes.
- Still chance of reducing validity.
- It's immoral to decieve people, researchers need consent.
- Many lie to leave the group.
- Researcher may take part in illegal acts.
- Researcher has duty to report things that are illegal.
Advantages of Participant Observation
- It's valid, rich source of qualitative data and creates true image.
- We get an insight, we understand things ourselves, good perspective/experience of peoples lives and get unique data.
- It's flexible, survey questions have pre-Qs thought out and hypothesis' set. But Participant observations allows an open mind, new questions/situations.
- Can get answers other methods can't.
- Practically it's good for observing groups and can be used where questioning is useless.
Disadvantages of Participant Observation:
- Practically, it's timely, researcher needs training, stressful if covert, not everyone can observe as a skill, personal character is key,
- Ethically, if covert, it decieves people, immoral and illegal.
- Representativeness is small, quantative methods aren't for Participant Observation.
- It's not reliable, can't be accuratly repeated. Personal character matters and skills, can't be compared to other studies as it's qualitative.
- It may be biased and not objective, many may become loyal, won't release full info,
- Validity isn't 100%, positivists reject it as it creates an image of what observer sees, may result in Howthorne effect.