Advantages and Disadvantages of Participation in Research

In: Social Issues

Submitted By elliemx
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Evaluate the advantages that some sociologists see in using participant observation in their research. (16 marks)
A participant observation refers to when the researcher joins in with group he or she is studying. This method is usually favoured by interpretivists as they can understand the meaning behind the behaviour of the group they observe. By putting themselves in the shoes of the participants they can understand why people act in certain ways. This could be particularly helpful in understanding behaviour which is very removed from our normal lives, for example gang behaviour. There are two types of observation, covert and overt. In a covert observation the participants do not know you are observing them for research. In overt observations the participants do.
An advantage of participant observations is that they are valid. What people say they do in a questionnaire and what they actually do in real life are not always same thing. By contrast, by observing people we can obtain rich qualitative data that provides a picture of how they really live. Supporters of participant observation such as interpretivists argue that this is the methods main strength and most of its other advantages are linked to this. However a disadvantage of participant observation is practical issues. For example it is very time consuming because it can take years. The researcher also needs to be trained so they are able to recognise aspects of the situation which are sociologically significant and worth further attention. Participant observations can be very stressful and demanding, especially covert. They require observational and interpersonal skills that not everyone possesses. Personal characteristics such as age, gender and ethnicity may restrict what kinds of groups can be studied. Finally many groups may not wish to be studied in this way and some have the power to make access…...

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