The word participant observation was derived from the word participate and observe, which means the researcher using participant observation will participate and observe at the same time of the group being studied, in which it was historically associated with ethnography. Participant Observation was created during late 19th century as an ethnographic field method for the study of small, homogeneous cultures (Tedlock, 2009, in Denzin and Lincoln, 2009). It is also originally developed as a fieldwork technique by anthropologists such as Malinowski and Boas, and by researcher in urban studies (Bray, 2008). Participant observation is one of the qualitative methods of gathering data in which the researcher becomes a participant in the social process being studied (Veal, 2006), with the objectives to better understand the study population and get the related information. The researcher using participant observation seeks to immerse him or herself in the daily lives of the group being studied, to the point that they become a member of the observed group and do not tell others that their prime motivation is to conduct a piece of research (Arksey and Harris, 2007).
The researcher also tries to become an accepted part of the group and to learn about the group as a member of it (Browne, 2005). Participant observation also requires involvement on the part of researcher with the community of people being studied, in their natural environment and over an extended period (Dewalt and Dewalt, 2002 in Bray, 2008). The researcher studies people in their own time and space, thereby gaining close and intimate familiarity with them and their practices (Rainbow and Sullivan 1987, in Bray, 2008). In some cases, the researcher might also consider it necessary to learn the local language of study group in order to better understand people on their own terms and more effectively enter their frame of mind (Bray, 2008). Unlike non-participant observations (in which the researcher only observe but serve no role), the researcher in participant observation has a legitimate role in the process (Posavac and Carey, 2007), such as being a chef’s assistant to learn more about cooking. In general, the researcher that uses participant observation tries to learn the life for an “insider” while remaining as an “outsider”. Participant observation always takes place in community settings, in locations that have relevance to the research being conducted.
In leisure and tourism as well, elements of participant observation are common in many types of research, such as; for a researcher involved in studying the use of park or resort can easily spend periods as a user of the facility (a very minimalist view of participant observation). In most of leisure and tourism research, it normally involved much more interaction of the researcher with the people being researched (Veal, 2006). Participant observations are normally used when the services of a program are too private to permit a non-participant observer (in which researcher just observe, without participating) to be present or when the staff members are so defensive that they would not be able to carry out their duties, it may be necessary to use a participant observer (Posavac and Carey, 2007).
Participant Observation may be done to varying degrees, from regular formal contact with some members of a community to a lengthy full immersion. There is no standard way of doing it, as this depends on the researcher’s experiences in the field, how his research itinerary is determined by decisions he makes and by chance encounters and events while out in the field (Bray, 2008). Methods of participant observation are thus necessarily plural and in the fieldwork, the researcher must necessarily adopt a flexible approach in order to sensitively detect the factors of interest (Dal Lago and De Biasi, 2002, in Bray, 2007). A complete participant observation...
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