Using Material from Item B and Elsewhere Assess the Strengths and Limitations of Participant Observation for Investigating Truancy from School (20 Marks)

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Using material from Item B and elsewhere assess the strengths and limitations of participant observation for investigating truancy from school (20 marks) In item B truancy is defined as an unauthorised absence from school. Sociologists may want to investigate why truancy occurs, what anti-school subcultures are more likely to truant and what effect truancy has on future careers or achievements. To do this they may choose to use participant observation, Participant observation is where the researcher takes part in the event that they are observing (in this case truanting) whilst observing it. There are two different types of participant observation. Firstly, overt observation is when the researcher would make all the pupils aware that they are being studied and makes sure they give their permission before the observation takes place. This makes their research ethical, however observer effect can occur which is where the truants may behave differently because they are being observed, giving unreliable results. The other type of participant observation is covert studies. This means the truants wouldn’t know they were being watched, so they are more likely to behave like they normally would, giving valid results, however this raises ethical concerns such as the right to withdraw and deception. A strength of participant observation when investigating truancy from school is results are usually valid compared with getting the students to fill out a questionnaire about truanting when there is no real way of telling if they are giving accurate answers. Also, participant observation can provide high amounts of qualitative data and the researcher can put his findings into great detail. By observing truanting and how the pupils go about it, the sociologist can gain understanding of their viewpoints and actions. Studies that take place in a natural setting e.g. in
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