Examine The Problems Sociologists May Find When Using Participant Observation In Their Research

Topics: Sociology, Research, Scientific method Pages: 2 (1095 words) Published: February 16, 2015
Examine the problems sociologists may find when using participant observation in their research.

When sociologists carry out an investigation, they can carry out their research in a number of ways. One way to do this is participant observation. 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. This approach is referred to as the 'Ethnographic Approach'. Ethnomethodology refers to the use of Interpretivist Methods and Procedures. This approach assumes that society has no social structure. It believes that social order is an illusion that individuals create in their minds and that reality is a social construction. Ethnomethodology is interested in discovering how individuals make sense of the social world and how they create a sense of order in their lives. There are two different types of participant observation. 'Overt' which is where the participants are aware of the researcher's true identity, and then there is 'covert' which means the researcher is undercover and their true identity is never revealed. Sometimes it is difficult to categorise observations e.g. Whyte (1995) 'Street Corner Society', Whyte allowed one member of the group to know about the research but hid his identity and purpose from the rest of the group. There are significant practical implications of conducting participant observation. First of all it can be very time consuming, an example would be Eileen Barker who did a study of "The Moonies" which took her 7 years to complete. Alongside this, the researcher needs to be able to recognise aspects of a situation which aren't significant and worth further investigation. If the observation is covert it can be very stressful and demanding. It can also be very difficult to keep accurate field notes during these studies. However these practical limitations can be outweighed by the fact that participant observation is the best way to truly...
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