Participant Observation: Understanding Society Essay

872 words - 3 pages

Participant Observation as the Most Effective Method of Understanding Society

All case studies require either overt or covert observation to collect
the information necessary to complete the study. Both covert and overt
have their advantages and disadvantages; they both add different but
similar ideas and theories to a study. These two methods have been
used in a variety of case studies but the ones that I am going to
focus on are James Patrick’s study of Glasgow gang’s, Laud Humphreys
study of the tea room trade in America and Ann Oakley’s study of first
time pregnancy with women in the UK. I am going to look at how
participant observation was used in these three studies and whether
the researcher used overt or covert observation to achieve the aim of
the case study.

In the first study I will look at is Laud Humphreys study of the tea
room trade in America in which the researcher Laud Humphreys used
covert observation, covert observation is where the researcher doesn’t
allow the person that they are studying to know that they are studying
them, this can be done in a variety of situations but seeing as though
this particular research piece was done on a very delicate subject the
researcher was probably better of to use covert than overt, the
activity that he was studying is illegal in America therefore
ethically the piece of research was wrong and he shouldn’t of taken
part to the level that he did ( his role was as a watch queen to see
if any officials were coming) however sometimes the rules have to be
broken to achieve the results wanted. Also as the researcher took down
car registration plates to see what sort of people actually took part
in this sort of activity he again broke the law. However this sort of
behavior can be justified to some degree as without it the piece of
research wouldn’t have been the success that it was. So overall in
using the covert observation technique to protect not only the people
that he was studying but also himself the research was a success.

The second study that I will look at is James Patrick’s study of the

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