assess the view that overt observations free essay

Assess the view that overt observations are the most useful research method for sociologists BY leukocytes Assess the view that overt observations are the most useful research method for sociologists – Lucy Metcalf To begin, observation is when a sociologist looks at a group in detail and analyses their actions and what they do on specific variTABLEs. I. E. A variTABLE may be looking at educational attitude, parallel to educational achievement.

There are different types of observation that can be used in different situations and for different topics, one type, is participant observation or ethnography, which is when the sociologist immerses there self into the lives of an individual or group that they are studying. Interpretations prefer a full immersion as they can get a valid, truer picture. There is then, non – participant observation, when the sociologist observes, however, doesn’t interact with the individual or group. Next, there is covert and overt observation.

Covert observation is observation, without the explicit awareness and agreement that the group or person is being studied. And, scones intently, overt observation is when the participant knows they are being observed and the purpose behind the observation. Consequently, observation in general is seen as beneficial for interpretations, because they prefer to see the individual, rich data that is good to analyses and get an understanding of individuals in society. Overt observation may be a useful research method for sociologists for many reasons.

For practicality, if the sociologist is TABLE to join a group openly, the problem of access can be fairly easily overcome; also leaving the group can be easier to carry out. For this reason, makes it a lot easier to carry out rather Han covert observation, especially if the researcher would like to observe an establishment like a school, because then ethical constraints can arise. Other reasons for using overt observation may include the avoidance of ethics, because the group or individual is aware of the researchers’ role while observing. They may also give informed consent, which is allowing and being aware of the researchers task I. . By filling in a form to understand that they are fully aware of what the researcher is carrying out. The group or person is also being observed in their natural setting this will make the individual or roof feel comforTABLE and at ease, thus, the researcher receives a fuller and truer, rich data that they are looking for. In addition, the problems of going are avoided; therefore, the observer will not form an allegiance with the group or individual of choice. White’s quote reiterates the problems with covert observation, he states ‘l started as a none participant observer and ended as a none observing participant’.

This quote highlights the ethical dangers of covert observation and getting heavily involved in a group. In addition, it is easier for sociologists that are carrying out overt observation to intriguingly write down their findings as they are watching a group or individual. This way they don’t forget any important information or data that they will then analyses in great detail. Therefore, It is very difficult to write down findings whilst carrying out covert observation, for example, Donation’s (1977) study of workplace ‘fiddles’, he used to go to the toilets to write up his research, using the toilet paper for his notes.

Overt observation is extremely valid, as the researcher doesn’t have set criteria to follow exactly, often this an lead to completely new insights and generate new theoretical ideas. In addition, participation overt observation is also very good as it allows the researcher to fully join the group to see things through the eyes and actions of the group, thus strengthening validity of overt observation. Therefore, Interpretations believe that sociologists should use qualitative methods as they aim to identify and look for causes and solutions for individuals in society.

On the contrary, there can be many limitations for researchers when carrying out overt observation. Practical limitations can include the time involved in finding a group or individual and how long the researcher wants to observe the person for. This method can be very time consuming for many sociologists and can take up to years to carry out research. And because, it is very time consuming for researchers, it is also going to be more expensive, due to the sheer amount of time that they have to observe for, compared to sending out a thousand questionnaires on line.

Also, when carrying out participation overt observation, the sociologist may need to gain acceptance room the group, for example they may need to find similarities between themselves and the group or individual that they are studying I. E. The same age, gender, social class, and ethnicity. Another problem with participant overt observation lies with the researchers bias, as the observer can be drawn into the group and start to see things through their eyes, therefore, creating their own assumptions about what they are going to find out.

Not only can the activities of a group of individual influence the researcher, positively or negatively, but the researcher can also influence them. If the roof is small and perhaps less educated than the sociologist, then the researcher’s ideas may influence the group, thereby, ruining the validity of the method. Parker et all’s (1998) research of youths in Liverpool reiterates this, when Parker himself actually gave them legal advice when they were caught by the police for stealing from cars.

In addition, when observing the individual or group, even if they are in their natural environment, they may feel uncomforTABLE because they are aware of being studied, therefore may act in a different way, thus, hindering the validity of the observation method itself. Other limitations to the overt observation is that because it takes so much time, and for interpretations, their observation doesn’t have a set structure, it is very difficult for other researchers to replicate the method. Thus, reliability is a major issue.

Moreover, because the interpretation’s method is centered on looking at the individual or small group it is hard to get a cross section of society today; for example, different ages, social class, ethnicity, gender, ethnicity, and sexuality can come into play. For that reason, representatives is also a major issue within this research method. And, consequently, it is very difficult to claim that findings can be generalized across the population as a whole. Positivists, favor other methods to carry out whilst carrying out research, because they prefer quantitative, large sample, numerical data.

They would prefer to use methods such as surveys, because they are typically large scale, and are structured therefore, are good for replicating surveys, thus are reliTABLE. Also, because positivists prefer to do research on a wide scale, it is easier to get a cross section of society, and thus, is representative. This makes it easier for sociologists to generalist their findings as they have a more representative sample of society. A type of survey, cross sectional surveys are often ‘snapshot’ studies as they gather information at one particular time.

These are the most common surveys to carry out and are used in papers and magazines for ‘opinion polls’. These types of surveys are very beneficial if the researcher wants to know something at a specific time, as the results can be collated and analyses very quickly, therefore wide spread opinions or findings are found that they can later generalist. Another type of survey, longitudinal surveys are also beneficial to positivist methods, because they are carried out over a period of time, the researcher can then look at trends and ideas and how they change over time.

This way patterns can be formed, analyses over periods of time. Thus, strengthening validity. An example of a longitudinal survey, carried out by Parker et al (1998) was done in the North West involving several hundred young people between ages 14 and 18. The overall aim of the study was to assess how ‘ordinary young people growing up in England In the 1 ass’s, plopped attitudes and behavior in relation to the availability or illegal drugs, alongside other substances, I. E. Alcohol and tobacco.

This study, because it is large scale and done over a period of time is very representative, and reliTABLE. And it also better for validity rather than the cross-sectional surveys, because researchers are TABLE to compare with past surveys and analyses data in depth. To conclude, there are both advantages and limitations to using overt observation. They are good for interpretations, as they want a source of rich, valid, individual data that can later be analyses intensely.

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