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Introduction Participant observation, for many years, has been a hallmark of both anthropological and sociological studies.
In recent years, the field of education has seen an increase in the number of qualitative studies that include participant observation as a way to collect information. Qualitative methods of data collection, such as interviewing, observation, and document analysis, have been included under the umbrella term of "ethnographic methods" in recent years.
The purpose of this paper is to discuss observation, particularly participant observation, as a tool for collecting data in qualitative research studies.
Aspects of observation discussed herein include various definitions of participant observation, some history of its use, the purposes for which such observation is used, the stances or roles of the observer, and additional information about when, what, and how to observe. Further information is provided to address keeping field notes and their use in writing up the final story.
Participant observation is the process enabling researchers to learn about the activities of the people under study in the natural setting through observing and participating in those activities. Most anthropologists, he notes, need to maintain a sense of objectivity through distance.
He defines participant observation as the process of establishing rapport within a community and learning to act in such a way as to blend into the community so that its members will act naturally, then removing oneself from the setting or community to immerse oneself in the data to understand what is going on and be able to write about it.
He includes more than just observation in the process of being a participant observer; he includes observation, natural conversations, interviews of various sorts, checklists, questionnaires, and unobtrusive methods. FINE, in part, defines "peopled ethnography" as being based on extensive observation in the field, a labor-intensive activity that sometimes lasts for years.
In this description of the observation process, one is expected to become a part of the group being studied to the extent that the members themselves include the observer in the activity and turn to the observer for information about how the group is operating.
He also indicates that it is at this point, when members begin to ask the observer questions about the group and when they begin to include the observer in the "gossip," that it is time to leave the field.
This process he describes of becoming a part of the community, while observing their behaviors and activities, is called participant observation. The History of Participant Observation as a Method Participant observation is considered a staple in anthropological studies, especially in ethnographic studies, and has been used as a data collection method for over a century.
During this time, CUSHING learned the language, participated in the customs, was adopted by a pueblo, and was initiated into the priesthood.
Because he did not publish extensively about this culture, he was criticized as having gone native, meaning that he had lost his objectivity and, therefore, his ability to write analytically about the culture.
My own experience conducting research in indigenous communities, which began about ten years ago with my own ethnographic doctoral dissertation on Muscogee Creek women's perceptions of work KAWULICH, and has continued in the years since i.
In my own research, I have been hesitant to write about religious ceremonies or other aspects of indigenous culture that I have observed, for example, for fear of relating information that my participants or other community members might feel should not be shared. When I first began conducting my ethnographic study of the Muscogee culture, I was made aware of several incidents in which researchers were perceived to have taken information they had obtained through interviews or observations and had published their findings without permission of the Creek people or done so without giving proper credit to the participants who had shared their lives with the researchers.
She took a job as a rent collector to interact with the people in buildings and offices and took a job as a seamstress in a sweatshop to better understand their lives. MEAD's approach to data collection differed from that of her mentor, anthropologist Frank BOAS, who emphasized the use of historical texts and materials to document disappearing native cultures.
While ethnographers traditionally tried to understand others by observing them and writing detailed accounts of others' lives from an outsider viewpoint, more recently, sociologists have taken a more insider viewpoint by studying groups in their own cultures.
These sociological studies have brought into question the stance or positioning of the observer and generated more creative approaches to lending voice to others in the presentation of the findings of their studies GAITAN, By the s, participant observation was widely used by both anthropologists and sociologists.
The previously noted studies were some of the first to use the process of participant observation to obtain data for understanding various cultures and, as such, are considered to be required reading in anthropology classes.
Why Use Observation to Collect Data? Observation methods are useful to researchers in a variety of ways. They provide researchers with ways to check for nonverbal expression of feelings, determine who interacts with whom, grasp how participants communicate with each other, and check for how much time is spent on various activities SCHMUCK, They suggest that participant observation be used as a way to increase the validity 1 of the study, as observations may help the researcher have a better understanding of the context and phenomenon under study.
Validity is stronger with the use of additional strategies used with observation, such as interviewing, document analysis, or surveys, questionnaires, or other more quantitative methods. It makes it possible to collect different types of data.
It reduces the incidence of "reactivity" or people acting in a certain way when they are aware of being observed. It helps the researcher to develop questions that make sense in the native language or are culturally relevant.
It gives the researcher a better understanding of what is happening in the culture and lends credence to one's interpretations of the observation. Participant observation also enables the researcher to collect both quantitative and qualitative data through surveys and interviews.
It is sometimes the only way to collect the right data for one's study pp. These include that it affords access to the "backstage culture" p.
DeWALT and DeWALT add that it improves the quality of data collection and interpretation and facilitates the development of new research questions or hypotheses p. To alleviate this potential bias problem, BERNARD suggests pretesting informants or selecting participants who are culturally competent in the topic being studied.
They note that the information collected by anthropologists is not representative of the culture, as much of the data collected by these researchers is observed based on the researcher's individual interest in a setting or behavior, rather than being representative of what actually happens in a culture.
Such actions skew the description of cultural activities. To alleviate this problem, they advocate the use of systematic observation procedures to incorporate rigorous techniques for sampling and recording behavior that keep researchers from neglecting certain aspects of culture.
Their definition of structured observation directs who is observed, when and where they are observed, what is observed, and how the observations are recorded, providing a more quantitative observation than participant observation.
For example, DeWALT and DeWALT note that male and female researchers have access to different information, as they have access to different people, settings, and bodies of knowledge.In this paper, we present Google, a prototype of a large-scale search engine which makes heavy use of the structure present in hypertext.
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Submit an article. Volume 6, No. 2, Art. 43 – May Participant Observation as a Data Collection Method. Barbara B. Kawulich. Abstract: Observation, particularly participant observation, has been used in a variety of disciplines as a tool for collecting data about people, processes, and cultures in qualitative urbanagricultureinitiative.com paper provides a look at various definitions of participant observation, the.
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