Research Methods - Observation

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There are several types of observations used by sociologists. Firstly:

· Non-participant observation: the researcher simply observes the group or event without taking part in it. E.g. observing children playing via a two way mirror.

· Participant observation: the researcher actually takes part in the event of the everyday life of the group while observing them.

Secondly, there is also:

· Overt observation: The researcher makes their true identity and purpose known to those being studied. The sociologist is open about what they are doing.

· Covert observation: The study is carried out ‘under cover’. The researcher’s real identity and purpose are kept concealed from the group being studied. The researcher takes on a false identity and role, usually posing as a genuine member of the group.

Whyte’s (1955) study of ‘Street Corner Society’ was semi-overt. He revealed his real purpose to a key member of the group, Doc, but not to others. ‘Getting in’ poses the question of what role the researcher should adopt. Ideally it should be one


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