Examine the Problems Sociologists May Find When Using Participant Observation in Their Research.

Topics: Sociology, Research, Scientific method Pages: 3 (909 words) Published: February 29, 2012
Examine the problems sociologists may find when using participant observation in their research.

All sociological research methods involve observation, however, according to Hughes participant observations is defined by when the researcher themselves participates in the activities of those he or she is observing and studying. Participant observation is a primary research method in which a sociologist studies a group by taking a role within it and participating in its activities. There are two different types of participant observation. Overt where the participants are aware of the researcher's true identity, and there is covert which means undercover where the true identity of the researcher is a secret.

Depending on which type of participant observation a sociologist decides to take depends on the problems occurring, for example when researching a extreme topic such as prostitution it is essential to research in covert participant observation otherwise it may endanger the researchers welfare. A perfect example of this is Sanders who conducted a study on the female sex industry, she cooperated in activities and conversations of fellow female prostitutes however did not engage in sexual activities to ensure her wellbeing, but instead made excuses to hide her true identity. This is a risky issue in which Sanders could have been discovered by not taking part in the other females’ lifestyle. Sociologist Patrick conducted a study on a youth gang in Glasgow, he also cooperated covertly and would be the only way to do so, this is due to the fact that the gang were engaging in illegal activities and if they knew that someone was researching them they would behaviour differently. However without being covert with the gang may not have accepted him into their group and if they did accept him their behaviour could be somewhat different to usual. Covert participant observation is usually conducted on issues which are deemed inappropriate by society, due to this it is...
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