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The benefits&limitationsðical implications of a research method in the context of a particular methodology - Essay Example

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Participant Observation in the Context of Ethnography Essay Name of of University Introduction Participant observation is one of the major research methods applied to the context of ethnography. Ethnography is focused on the analysis, explanation, and description of a culture, social phenomenon, or a community…
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The benefits&limitations&ethical implications of a research method in the context of a particular methodology
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Download file to see previous pages In participant observation the researcher takes part or becomes involved in the existing activities of the community and document observations. Generally the observer assumes the role being explored (Flick, 2009). However, similar to other research methods, participant observation in the context of ethnography has benefits and limitations. This essay explores these strengths and weaknesses, as well as its ethical implications. Benefits and Limitations Participant observation grants the researcher the opportunity to explore phenomenon from the inside. They are valuable in ethnography when behaviours and thoughts can be identified and appreciated best in their natural situation or when the observer plans to explore social dynamics or cultural trend over a period of time. They generate a wide array of information or knowledge about the responses of individuals and provide researchers the opportunity to build theories from the information gathered (Hume & Mu, 2004). However, the key benefit of participant observation for ethnography is that it produces an accurate understanding of how individuals perform their daily activities or tasks. It presents truthful knowledge of how individuals view cultural or societal processes, norms, and roles when studied methodically, which implies that the researcher is not only performing an observation but is also examining contexts, situations, or relationships with an assumption of how interaction or communication must be taking place (Kirby, 2000). Hence, participant observation within the context of ethnography is a field that must be known to all corporate or organisational professionals. A perfect example is how Gary DiCamillo, the CEO of Polaroid Corporation, acted when he took on the corporate position in the 1990s (Stacks, 2010, 191). Aside from interviewing the members of the organisation, he checked the different Polaroid sites, visited the control centres and facilities, and participated in dialogues about the company with managers and employees. Due to his continuous participant observation, he was able to discover the company’s strong and weak points, and to plan his future actions for Polaroid (Stacks, 2010, 191). In essence, according to Gummesson (1999), participant observation gives the researcher the chance to have a profound, compassionate, and culturally-sensitive knowledge of how individuals perceive the world. It is particularly valuable in the ‘exploratory’ phase of an ethnographic study (Myers, 2008), when researchers have an unclear or indefinite idea of what they are trying to discover or understand and an unclear idea of what they will find out. The major limitation of participant observation within the context of ethnography involves the amount of effort, time, and related costs it requires (Bryman & Bell, 2007). In addition, because participant observation generally requires only one researcher in a particular social situation, it is not easy to find out if other researchers would evaluate aspects similarly and it is not easy to determine how generally results may be related to other situations (Symon & Cassell, 1998; Collis & Hussey, 2009). Thus one of the major limitations of participant observation is reliability. In summary, the strengths of participant observation are as follows: the researcher is responsive to new ideas; it can analyse the deepest aspects of social processes or cultural dynamics; it assumes the role or perspective of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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