Up Learn – A Level Psychology (AQA) – research methods (part 1)
Non-Participant Observation: Advantages and Disadvantages
We’ve also seen that, using participant observations, the researchers may gain more insight and understanding into the behaviour of their participants. But they’re also more likely to influence their participants, leading to investigator effects.
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Research Methods (Part 1)
Last time, we saw that…
Last time, we saw that an overt observation is one in which participants know that they’re being watched for a research study.
And a covert observation is one in which participants don’t know that they’re being watched for a research study.
Overt observations are more ethical than covert observations, because informed consent can be obtained.
But covert observations are less likely to be affected by investigator effects or social desirability bias.
So, once the researcher has decided on the type of observation and the awareness of the participants, the researcher needs to decide what their own role will be in the study.
For instance, suppose a researcher conducts an observation to investigate how well students are learning in their French language class.
As he observes, measures and takes notes to describe the students’ behaviours, he notices that the students aren’t doing well in French class… they struggle to speak any French and they’re bombing their tests…
But the researcher isn’t really sure why they’re doing so badly…
So, to try and find out, he decides to also take part in the French class. He sits in on the class, takes part in all of the activities, and does all of the assigned work and homework…
Now, if the researcher also takes part in the activity that the participants are doing, we call it a participant observation.
And if the researcher doesn’ttake part in the activity that the participants are doing and just observes the activity, we call it a non-participant observation.
Now, this name is a bit confusing, because it sounds like we’re talking about the participants conducting an observation when really, participant observation refers to the researcher!
But the reason it’s called a participant observation is because it means that the researcher is participating in the activities, and acting as a participant in the study.
And likewise, in a non-participant observation, the researcher isn’t participating in the activities, they’re not acting as a participant in the study.
So, are these participant, or non-participant observations??
These [A and D ] are participant observations, and these [B and C ] are non-participant observations.
So, to sum it up, we’ve now seen that…
We’ve now seen that, when the researcher takes part in the activity that the participants are doing, we call it a participant observation.
And if the researcher doesn’t take part in the activity that the participants are doing, we call it a non-participant observation.