Observations – Theory and Methods

Lesson objectiveTo explore observations
Lesson outcomes• Assess when and how to use them
• Analyse their usefulness
• Explain what observations are

For your introduction, you need to always mention:


What, who, why


Participant observation is where a group or individual is observed and the researcher joins in. This can either be undertaken in a covert (undercover fashion) or overt (being honest and open with participants).

Who and Why

Interpretivists would tend to use participant observations as it gives a first hand insight into human behaviour.


Studies you need to refer to:

PATRICK (1973) went covert in a gang and illustrates the dangers. He managed to get close to the gang leader Tim because of the age similarities, however, as the gang became more violent, he had to leave abruptly. When he published his papers years later, it had to be under a different name.

HUMPHRIES (1970) illustrates how the nature of an experiment can change. At first, he acted as a lookout for a group who was involved in illegal homosexual sexual activities (covert). After he gained trust, he declared the nature of the experiments to participants who allowed him to interview them in different ways (overt).

PUNCH (1979) shows the difficulty in entering groups when overt with a group of police officers. The police only let Punch see certain things making his results less valid. Eventually, after spending time with the police he ending up chasing suspects resulting in lower validity.

​BARKER (1984) attempted to investigate (The Moonies) who were a religious sect accused of brainwashing people. He spent 6 years overtly with them. Because of this time, his data has been accused of being low in validity because he may have been brainwashed himself.  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: