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The Application of Participant Observation in Research - Essay Example

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The Application of Participant Observation in Research Participant Observation Participant observation is a sociological research methodology that entails the researcher taking position and taking part in the social condition under observation (Macionis and Plummer 1997, p1)…
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Download file to see previous pages This way, they learn the tacit and explicit aspects of their culture and life routines. In this context, explicit culture is a section of what individuals are capable of articulating about them (DeWalt and DeWalt 2002, p1). Among sociologists, participant observation provides an interesting and a unique way through which they are able to gather data and study the society. In sociology, participant observation is a form of qualitative research. In this method, two functions are played concurrently, that is, the role if the objective observer and that of the subjective participant. Generally, the group knows that they are being studied by the sociologist, but not all the time. The group can be a religious sect, young gang, gamblers or a group of drinkers in a bar. Participant observation is also referred to as field research. The term field research is common among the anthropologists. Just like anthropologists, sociologist participant observers to the areas where the research participants are found and to some extent, they adopt their ways (Andersen and Taylor 2007, p37). Participant observation links subjective knowledge acquired through objective knowledge and personal involvement gained through disciplined recording of what an individual has seen. The subjective component offers a dimension of information that is entirely absent in the survey data and related techniques. The effectiveness it adds to “interpretations of human interaction has proved to be well worth the burden of managing the rich and sometimes subjective raw material” (Andersen and Taylor 2007, p37). Participant observers attempt to identify all the group members being studied to the best level possible. This form of research method is usually used to study small groups over a long period. The aim of the method is to get a comprehensive portrait of the day-to-day activities of the group, to observe the group and individual behaviour, and to interview chosen informants. The success of participant observation relies on the relationship developed between the research participants and the researchers. More information (specifically the form of information that is important to the success of the research) is disclosed to the researcher when the relationship is more trusting and closer (Tischler 2010, p34). The Importance of Participant Observation Irrespective of the field of study, participant observation offers several advantages. Firstly, it improves the quality of the data or information obtained in the fieldwork. Secondly, it improves the quality of the data interpretation, regardless of whether the information was collected through participant observation or other research methods. Thus, it is imperative to note that participant observation is both an analytic and a data collection tool. Thirdly, it promotes the formulation of new hypotheses and research questions based on the observation at the scene (DeWalt and DeWalt 2002, p8). Observation methods are important to the researchers in various ways. They offer the researchers with means to establish who interacts with whom, to check for non-verbal cues of feelings, understand how the research participants communicate with one another, and check for the time spent on a variety of activities. Participant observation permits the researchers to verify the definitions of terms that the research part ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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