Examine the Reasons Why Some Sociologists Choose Not to Use Overt Observation When Conducting Research Essay

381 WordsFeb 26, 20132 Pages
Overt participant observtion has a number of potential weaknesses or limitations. These range from the relatively mundane - including the amounts of time and expense involved, through possible problems with data interpretation to more serious questions about the researcher's actual levels of involvement in the group and the extent to which this may be considered a naturalistic method of research. Data interpretation problems can include deciding which observations - among many - are significant. Another thing, any social group has many things happening at the same time. It is difficult for the researcher to observe everyone. Decisions have to be made about who to observe and when to observe them; significant evidence may be missed, leading to invalid interpretations of the group's behavior. Involvement with a group may be too superficial, given that one of th epuposes of participant observation is to experience the world from the viewpoint of the people being studied. If th eresearcher does not become sufficiently involved with the group then this type of data might not be collected. An example might be observation of a group involved in criminal activities. Clearly to understand how and why people commit crimes it would be necessary to accompany group members on their criminal expeditions. Naturalism is a problem that in that people are being studied in their natural environment or habitat and that the research is carried out with the cooperation of the people innvolved, there is no way of measuring how the presence of the observer influences the behavior of group members. The question is to what extent the people being studied alter the way they "normally" behave. Is the observer seeing "normal behavior" or does the observer's presence produce an unknown level of change in people's behavior? W.F.Whyte (Street Corner Society") recognized, but never
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