Crime and Deviance Research Methods - Participant Observation, Informal Interviews and Field Experiments

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Participant Observation

James Patrick: was invited by a gang member to see what life was like in a Glasgow street gang. Joined in most of the activities of the gang but was forced to leave when other members became suspicious about his real motives.

Erving Goffman: Studied life in an American mental institution. Worked as the assistant athletics coach, a role that allowed him to see at first hand how patients responded to life in a mental institution

Advantages

  • This method should allow for the most verstehen of any research method
  • If the group don't realise they are being observed, this should be a method that has a high degree of validity
  • The research takes place in a a natural setting 
  • The researcher may discover areas to research they were unaware of initially
  • The method is time-consuming but inexpensive

Disadvantages

  • The are ethical concerns such as lack of informed consent. Patrick was breaking the law by being involved in some of the activities
  • Are the group going to behave normally with the presence of an outsider, even if they accept the new person as one of their own?
  • It is difficult to record the findings. Patrick had to rely on memory as he could not be…

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