Sociology Term Paper

Topics: Scientific method, Qualitative research, Research Pages: 6 (1653 words) Published: November 26, 2014

Sociology Term Paper

Participant Observation in Social Research

Sheikh Daniyal Ahmed
BS Accounting and Finance
Section B

Executive Summary:

Participant observation is considered one of the most renowned methods of data collection in social research as the term perfectly collects a general opinion of the public as we see, sociologists all over the world confirm this as the gist of all qualitative research. It is the way to collect important information about a specific topic based upon the public eye. Various methods are subdivided by this type of observation as when fieldwork is required there are interviewing, questioning etc. The definition of this pertinent topic would be "the systematic description of events, behaviors, and artifacts in the social setting chosen for study" (Marshall and Rossman, 1989). Observations enable the researcher to describe existing situations using the five senses, providing a "written photograph" of the situation under study (Erlandson, Harris, Skipper, and Allen, 1993). The people involved during the study are certain group of individuals which have an intimate relationship between each other, their events, behaviour and attitude is monitored, they may be of any cult, religion, caste or creed. Certain alternatives to this technique are also present one of them which is Gathering data without direct observation. The following alternative uses the principles of Participant Observation to gather data on an incident without direct observation. To use this method effectively, an incident must be specific. It must be fairly brief and well defined.  Participants are instructed to describe an incident in enough detail to give the analyst the feeling that he or she is present.  

For example, instruct participants to:
·          think of examples when customers were pleased with the service provided,  
·          describe in detail the circumstances of the incident so that the incident can be visualized.

Main Body:

In this paper I will give a detailed description about what actually this specific topic is. I will back up the points made during this piece with sociologists I have studied. After, which I will then reach a conclusion where I will justify the argument in depth. 

Observation means watching behaviour in real-life settings. A covert  participant observation is when the subject(s) you’re studying doesn’t  know that you’re actually studying them. An overt participant  observation means that the subject(s) you’re studying are aware of the  fact that you’re studying them. There are many reasons why a participant observation is seen as a very useful way to gather research. This is because you are taking part with the observation and would therefore be able to really get an insight into the topic you’re studying. Participant observation is what making sociologists think outside the box as there is this advantage of actually viewing people and learning first hand what this society is coming to and what its leading towards. This method of observation mostly relates more to Anthropology and Ethnology rather than to sociology, so moreover sociologists may not make use of this technique but may develop an upper hand by establishing this method as their main technique.

"Participant observation is the process enabling researchers to learn about the activities of the people under study in the natural setting through observing and participating in those activities. It provides the context for development of sampling guidelines and interview guides" (DeWalt and DeWalt, 2002) As both authors describe participant observation as observing and more importantly also participating in these natural settings to which overt participant observation is concerned.

"The process of establishing rapport within a community and learning to act in such a way as to blend into the community so that its members will act naturally, then removing...

References: DeWalt, Kathleen M. & DeWalt, Billie R. (1998). Participant observation. In H. Russell Bernard (Ed.), Handbook of methods in cultural anthropology (pp.259-300). Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.
DeWalt, Kathleen M. & DeWalt, Billie R. (2002). Participant observation: a guide for fieldworkers. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
Erlandson, David A.; Harris, Edward L.; Skipper, Barbara L. & Allen, Steve D. (1993). Doing naturalistic inquiry: a guide to methods. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Johnson, Allen & Sackett, Ross (1998). Direct systematic observation of behavior. In H. Russell Bernard (Ed.), Handbook of methods in cultural anthropology (pp.301-332). Walnut Creek: AltaMira Press.
Bernard, H. Russell (1994). Research methods in anthropology: qualitative and quantitative approaches (second edition). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
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