Evaluate The Uses And Limitations Of Participant Observation As A Method Of Sociological Enquiry

567 words - 3 pages

Participant observation is a method used by researchers to gather information on a certain group, in which they become a member of the group to gain in depth knowledge.
There are two types of participant observation, these being covert and overt. Overt observation is where the group knows your identity, and what you are doing. This can be useful as it means you can act yourself, and you don’t have to be overly secretive about doing the research and you can take down notes in front of the group, allowing you to make note of all the information you receive, you can also hand out things such as questionnaires to the group which you could not do with covert. However the down side to using overt participant observation is that the group may not reveal certain ...view middle of the document...

For instance when taking information down, if you receive a large lot of information at once, it could be hard to remember all of it, and the researcher may have to keep making excuses (e.g going to the toilet) to go and make note of what they have found out. By doing this it could make you look extremely suspicious. There is also the risk of the group finding out your identity, and removing you from the group which would result in your research coming up short, or in a drastic scenario, the group may even turn violent, which could result in the researcher being physically abused.
This research can also be very dangerous mentally, for instance a researcher could join a group looking to research in to it, and by the end of the research could have been brain washed by the group, and become a member of the group themselves.
It is also very time consuming, especially if you are doing overt participant observation, as you will be required to gain permission from the group to study them before you become a part of the group.
This research can often be expensive too, if the researcher has to move to a different part of the country of even the world to carry out the research, then there is the expense of travel, accommodation, clothes etc. And unless the research carried out can be published and earn the researcher money and can often be very financially distressing.
In conclusion, Participant observation is a very useful method of researching groups, as it allows the researcher to gain an in depth knowledge, and see what the group is truly like for themselves. However due to its hefty time consumption and large expense, it may put researchers off of using this method, also the risk of being caught when using covert observation could scare researchers away from using this method of research.

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