Assess the Strengths and Limitations of Using Overt Participant Observation as a Means of Investigating Police Attitudes

Topics: Research, Scientific method, Participant observation Pages: 2 (605 words) Published: December 19, 2012
Assess the strengths and limitations of using overt participant observation as a means of investigating police attitudes. (15 marks) Overt participant observation involves the researcher being open with the group they are going to study. This means they are able to over-see the experiment that is taking place whilst being involved in it. A positive of using this method when researching police attitudes is that as the researcher will be involved in the experiment; they will gain first-hand experience of the situations that the police are in and will be able to better understand why the police react the way they do to each specific situation. For example, if the situation turns violent for any reason, the observer will be able to understand why police have to use the amount of force they do just to detain the criminal. Another positive is that if the observation is overt it means that the researcher is able to freely take notes as they won’t have to pretend to be part of the group. This method would appeal to interpretivists as it would create qualitative data which would be open to interpretation. It would also mean that the information would be more valid as the researcher wouldn’t have to rely on their memory of the days experiment to write up their findings. A weakness of using overt participant observation, however, would be that the validity of the data collected form this experiment may be jeopardised by the participant reactivity created by the researcher making their presence apparent to the group. For example, if the police are acting improperly, they wouldn’t want this to be made apparent to the public so if they knew they were being observed they would change their behaviour to make it seem as though they are doing their jobs properly and sticking to the rules. This is also known as the ‘Hawthorne effect’ and because the participants may act untruthfully, the results of the experiment will not be representative or valid. Being honest about researching a...
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