Essay about Participant Observation: Understanding Society

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Assess the usefulness of participant observation in sociological research.

In this short essay I will give a skilled weighed argument of the usefulness and non-usefulness of a participant observation. I will back up the points made during this piece with sociologists I have studied. After, which I will then reach a conclusion where I will justify the argument in depth.

Observation means watching behaviour in real-life settings. A covert participant observation is when the subject(s) you’re studying doesn’t know that you’re actually studying them. An overt participant observation means that the subject(s) you’re studying are aware of the fact that you’re studying them.

There are many
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This study was, yet again, a covert participant observation and it just shows that when carrying out this particular observation the subject(s) being studied are not likely to change their behaviour as a result of being studied because they are unaware of the situation.

Further more if it is covert participant, the researcher is able to research the workings of deviant groups. The only downside to studying a deviant group is the risk of being caught and loosing all your data gathered as well as the possibility of getting hurt.

Three examples of studies with deviant groups are James Paterick, Elliot Liebow and Ken Pryce. These sociologists studied a gang, in which they hoped to gain a deeper insight to the different behaviour of these people towards society.

James Paterick studied a Glasgow gang under a false name for fear of his own life. This was a covert participant observation and relates to the point made about the risks of joining in with a deviant group and how it does have its advantages such as getting valid data, but there’s always a catch.

Elliot Liebow studied the black ‘street corner’ men in Washington DC. The idea was to win over the group leader Tally, but to also find out the gangs reasons for this issue about ‘reputation’. This was another covert participant

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