Importance of participant observation Essay

Importance of participant observation, 501 words essay example

Essay Topic:participant observation,importance

Participant observation was repeatedly defined in my classes as the systematic approach involving long-term participation, observing, taking field notes, and interviewing the natives of a particular society, community or group. Also, that Malinowski was the anthropologist who often stated and argued for its importance to other researchers (Lassiter 2002 77). It is through this long term, qualitative research method that I think it is possible to advance into a deeper understanding of both collective and individual behaviors within groups while trying to step away from a completely ethnocentric approach. I feel that it connects a lot with Weber's concept of verstehen or understanding. As it states in Ritzer's and Stepnisky's book, Sociological Theory, Weber argued that verstehen was one of the most appropriate ways of studying societal experiences or social phenomenon because it attempts to understand the meanings that people attach and give to their experiences, interactions, and actions (Ritzer 2013). It is in this way that when researchers do fieldwork they see the importance of maintaining the balance of being subjective or objective observers and communicating back that information to the reader. As a result of participant observation we are able to get more in depth information about social interactions and group systems in place. Furthermore, it allows the researcher to explore questions and ideas that they normally would not have thought about if they were not actively engaging within that group or society. What I essentially appreciate about this methodology is that it holds the researcher accountable by forcing them to confront their own biases and misconceptions if they are to effectively engage with others in the society they are trying to learn from.Although I appreciate the value that participant observation gives to anthropological and sociological research, I also understand that it is not without its concerns and limitations. Many of the reading I had that showed this type of fieldwork addressed many of these issues. For example, this approach is probably more useful in understanding the interactions and occurrences that occur within smaller groups and perhaps it is not very informative with examining the larger social systems and occurrences that happen at the macro level. Unfortunately, there are also ethical concerns to think about. When it comes to consent it should be noted that the researcher might not want to divulge their reasoning for being there and purposely be deceitful towards the group. Also, for the sake of accuracy the researcher may be hesitant to report and/or get involved in stopping instances that could cause harm or put into significant danger the informants, bystanders, or even themselves. Another limitation to this methodology is that the group may very well act differently because there is an outsider joining and or studying the group jeopardizing the reliability of the information that was gathered. An issue, even I have with this methodology is that it relies heavily on the information that an outside researcher chooses to gather instead of allowing members of that particular group to present others with that information themselves.

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