Participant Observation

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On Monday October 16, 2006 at 12:00 pm I sat down with eight white males while they ate lunch. My intentions were simple; to observe a few normal men while in their most comfortable atmosphere. I wanted to get a feel for what guys talk about with their friends and what manner they go about discussing it in. I theorized that in the lunch room at a table with a group of friends was the perfect place to bond and socialize. Coming into the experiment I expected to hear endless conversation about sports, women, jokes, and the weekend. The interactions between the men were easy-going and useful to my study. The participants made me feel accepted and comfortable while observing their interactions with one another.

I chose the Main Dining Room at Ohio State University around noon – lunch time – in order to ensure that a sample of my target group was represented. The first task I made sure I completed when I sat down was to inform the people what was going on. I told them for the next half hour or so I would be conducting a participant observation experiment and all they needed to do for me was go about their lunch as if I wasn't there. They asked me a few questions like – Why? For what class? What professor? I told them I was doing it as a project for my social research methods class taught by Smith. Immediately after they were informed they seemed uninterested and went back to conversing and eating. At this point, after I made it clear what I was doing, I pulled out my pen and paper and continued to take notes.

At first I surveyed the table, observed how many people were sitting down, as well as their sex and race. I identified all eight of the men as either football players or non-football players. There were five and three, respectively. Then I took notes, I took notes on everything from what they were discussing to who was discussing it. I observed what time people left and who they left with. As the participants slowly finished their lunch's I wondered to...
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