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Whyte began his study with very little background in community studies of this kind or of participant observation. However, what he did have was the sort of curiosity that drove him to explore different ways of conducting research with his peers; and a preparedness to join in with local ways of life – much like anthropologists in more distant places. He began by trying to work his way into the local community by hanging round hotels and bars etc. This was met with great success. He then got to know social workers in local settlement houses – and while they had a great deal of knowledge – gained to some extent from the ‘outside’ – Whyte was still not getting the sort of picture he wanted. One of the workers suggested he talked to ‘Doc’.

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Participant observation is one the main research methods on the A level sociology syllabus, ..

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Discussion of research ethics for projects in Sociology, Anthropology, Politics, Social Policy, Social Work and Criminology. There are links to various useful documents: Research Ethics Proposal, Participant Information Sheet, Sample Consent Form, Risk Assessment Proforma. A resource developed in partnership by the Higher Education Academy's Centre for Sociology, Anthropology and Politics, the Centre for Social Work and Policy and Sheffield Hallam University

Participant observation sociology essays pdf

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Detailed guide to the American Psychological Association (APA) referencing system, commonly used in both social and natural sciences. By David Baker and Lynn Henrichsen, Brigham Young University. Formatting in Sociology. Using the Modern Language Association (MLA) format common in the humanities. Resources for Documenting Electronic Sources. All from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab. Discussion of research ethics for projects in Sociology, Anthropology, Politics, Social Policy, Social Work and Criminology. There are links to various useful documents: Research Ethics Proposal, Participant Information Sheet, Sample Consent Form, Risk Assessment Proforma. A resource developed in partnership by the Higher Education Academy's Centre for Sociology, Anthropology and Politics, the Centre for Social Work and Policy and Sheffield Hallam University Guidelines from the University of Toronto. (PDF file – needs Adobe Reader). The following is a selection. If your discipline or field of study isn't included you should be able to locate the appropriate one via the website of the relevant disciplinary or professional organization. Social Research Association Market Research Society

This essay will examine how participant observation is used as a research method
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Lincoln Williams (1988, p.136) warns us of the possible paternalism entailed in participant observation, and ‘the arrogance of the researcher invading another group’s world to get information in order to relay it to the outside world’. Williams is referring here to the question of power relations within the research arena. Wolpe (1988, p.160) notes in her study of schooling and sexuality that ‘the type of information boys would give a female researcher is likely to differ from that given to a male researcher’. In his study of white girls, Meyenn (1979, quoted in Wolpe) found that private areas of their lives were not discussed with him. More importantly, as feminist and black writers argue, in the past researchers have reified the research process with truth claims based on appeals to scientific objectivity and technical expertise, which serve to make invisible the complex internal sets of power relations in operation (Griffin, 1986; and Bhavnani, 1991). Mac an Ghaill comments that is his own work:

Participant observation: A guide for educators and social practitioners

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The method of participant observation leads the investigator to accept a role within the social situation he studies: he participates as a member of the group while observing it. In theory, this direct participation in the group life permits an easy entrance into the social situation by reducing the resistance of the group members; decreases the extent to which the investigator disturbs the ‘natural’ situation, and permits the investigator to experience and observe the group’s norms, values, conflicts and pressures, which (over a long period) cannot be hidden from someone playing an in-group role.

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‘Doc’ first became a key informant, then a friend and, in all essences, a co-worker. What Doc was able to do was to both provide Whyte with data about people and the neighbourhood, and to sponsor Whyte into various groups that he would have had considerable difficulties in entering. Other gatekeepers sponsored his search for a place to live and so on. In this way he gained access to key networks. However, he also had to engage in a ‘crash course’ in participant observation – and to learn ways of working that are very familiar to us.