PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION -8

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WHAT IS PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION
•PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION - is a method in which natural social processes are studied as they happen in their natural setting and are left relatively undisturbed.

•It is a means for seeing the social world as the research subjects see it. - in its totality - and for understanding subject's interpretations of that world.

•By observing people in interacting with them in the course of their normal activities, participant observers seek to avoid the artificiality of experimental designs and the unnatural structured questioning of survey research.

•This method encourages consideration of the context in which social interaction occurs of the complex and interconnected nature of social relations and of the sequencing of events.

•Participant Observer represents a continuum of roles ranging from being a COMPLETE OBSERVER to a COVERT PARTICIPANT
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A COMPLETE OBSERVER AND COVERT PARTICIPANT?
•COMPLETE OBSERVER - who does not participate in group activities and is publicly defined as a researcher

•COVERT PARTICIPANT - who acts just like other group members and does not disclose his or her research role. Many field researchers develop a role between those extremes, publicly acknowledging being a researcher, but nonetheless participating in group activities.
WHAT IS THE GOAL OF THE COMPLETE OBSERVER?
COMPLETE OBSERVATION - researchers try to see things as they happen without actively participating.
WHAT CAN EFFECTS CAN HAPPEN WITH COMPLETE OBSERVATION?
•Of course, the researchers very presence as an observer alters the social situation being observed - This is called: REACTIVE EFFECTS
•It is not "natural" in most social situations for someone to record observations for research, so individuals may alter their behavior.

•In social settings involving many people, the complete observer is unlikely to have much effect on social processes.

•When the social setting involves few people and observing is unlike the usual activities in he setting, or when the observer differs in obvious respects from eh participants, the COMPELTE OBSERVER is more likely to have an impact.

•Many field researchers adopt a role that involves some active participation in the setting. Usually they inform at least some group members of their research interests, but then participate in enough group activities to develop rapport with members and to gain a direct sense of what group members experience.
WHAT ARE THE GOALS OF COVERT PARTICIPATION?
•To lessen the potential for reactive effects and to gain entry to otherwise inaccessible settings, some field researchers have adopted the role of COVERT PARTICIPATION - keeping their research secret and trying their best to act like other participants in a social setting or group.

•Some problems include:
- Covert participants cannot ask questions that will arouse suspicion, so they often have trouble clarifying the meaning of other participants attitudes or actions.
-The role is difficult to play and researchers' spontaneous reactions to every event are unlikely to be consistent with those of the regular participants and raising suspicion that the researcher is not "one of us"
DESCRIBE THE SAMPLING METHOD OF PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION
•Sampling decisions are guided by the need to intensively study people, places or phenomena of interest

•Most qualitative researchers limit their focus to just one or a few sites, programs, or specific types of people so they can focus all their attention on the social dynamics of those settings or the activities or attitudes of these people.

•The sample must be appropriate and adequate for the study, even if it is not representative.

•The qualitative researcher may select one or more "critical cases" precisely because they are judged to be typical or "deviant cases" that provide a useful contrast. Within a research site, plans may be made to sample different settings, people, events and artifacts. (EXHIBIT 8.2 PG 222).

•Studying one case for setting almost always strengthens the causal conclusions and makes the findings more generalizable.
WHAT ARE SOME SYSTEMATIC APPROACHES TO SAMPLING IN PARTICIPANT
OBSERVATION?
-PURPOSIVE SAMPLING
-SNOWBALL SAMPLING
-QUOTA SAMPLING
-THEORETICAL SAMPLING
PURPOSIVE SAMPLING
can be used to identify opinion leaders and representatives of different roles.
SNOWBALL SAMPLING
field researchers learn from participants about who represents different subgroups in a setting.
QUOTA SAMPLING
may be employed to ensure the representation of particular categories of participants.
THEORETICAL SAMPLING
is a systematic approach used when field researchers focus on particular processes that seem to be important and select new settings or individuals that permit comparisons to check their perceptions.
HOW CAN SAMPLING IN QUALITATIVE STUDIES BE BIASED?
Sampling in qualitative studies can lead to bias.
•Example: a nonrandom sample of elderly persons in institutional settings can be biased by staff motivation to suggest residents who will present the institution in a particular light or simply by staff lack of reliable knowledge about residents' diagnoses, ensure or other characteristics that are important in the researcher's sampling strategy.
DESCRIBE THE NOTE TAKING PROCESS IN PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION AND WHY THEY ARE IMPORTANT
Notes are the primary means of recording participant observation data.
•Researchers jot down partial notes while observing and then retreat to computers to write up more complete notes on a daily basis.

•Some researchers will maintain a daily log in which each days activities are recorded.

•Field notes must be as complete, detailed and true to what was observed and heard as possible.
-Direct quotes should b distinguished clearly from paraphrased quotes, and both should e set off from the researcher's observations and reflections.
-The surrounding context should receive, as much attention as possible and a map of the setting always should be included, of indications of where individuals were at different times.

•Careful note taking yields a big payoff.
oField notes will suggest new concepts, causal connections and theoretical propositions.
-Notes also should include both descriptions of the situational context and a record of the researcher's feelings and thoughts while observing.
Notes like these provide a foundation for later review of the likelihood of bias or of inattention to some salient features of the situation.
WHAT IS SYSTEMATIC OBSERVATION?
•SYSTEMATIC OBSERVATION - develops a standard form on which to record variation within the observed setting in terms of the variable of interest.

•Such variables might include the frequency of some behavior, the particular people observed and environmental conditions.

•SEE EXAMPLE PAGE 226 (Shapiro & Mangelsdorf 1994)
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