Participant Observation Advantages and Disadvantages Essay

1505 Words Feb 14th, 2014 7 Pages
Introduction
All methods involve observation, but participant observation is characterized by the extent to which its advocates insist on observation and interpretation of a situation, informed by an understanding of the situation from the point of view of the participants rather than the observer. An attempt is made to avoid imposing categories from outside. Participant observation is the method of anthropology, although it is used in a wide range of sociological studies when the researcher has 'become part of a daily round, learning languages and meanings, rules of impersonal, relations... and in short, living the life of the people under study.' (Hughes, 1976).
Traditional participant observation is usually undertaken over an
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In this case, the researcher may not be protected, or may not protect others, from the risk of harm- especially if they social group they are studying are a deviant group that may partake in violent acts. Also, they will be deceiving the participants and will lack informed consent. Also, in this type of observation there are chances that the researcher could become bias in their view and may ‘go native’. Another disadvantage is close friendships are often resulting from connections with members of the group under study and the covert nature of the research can put a tremendous strain on the researcher, both in and out of the fieldwork setting. Example of a covert observation would be the famous Bandura’s 1961 Bobo doll study. In this study, after watching a model act violently the children were unknowingly observed as they played with toys, so the researcher could measure the childrens level of aggression after watching a model acting aggressively. The children were unaware that they were being observed and the reasons why they were involved in this study and therefore they would more likely to show natural displays of behaviour.
Disadvantages of Overt Participant Observation
However, a disadvantage would be that the participants understand the aims of the observer and so there is likely to be possible observer effects (the participants changing their behaviour