Participant Observation Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 23 April 2016

Participant Observation

The two research methods in sociology are Quantitative and Qualitative. Quantitative research is typically about numbers and graphs. The purpose is to predict and classify results and create graphs and models to explain the results. The researcher is detached from the subject matter and knows exactly what they are looking for. This type of research method can begin with a thesis and is best utilized towards the end of an experiment. Qualitative research is almost the opposite. It is about the expression of the results in words or visual aids. The researcher is heavily involved in the subject matter and only knows roughly what they are looking for. This research method is best utilized towards the beginning of an experiment because the intrinsic evolutionary quality about this method (Neill, 2007).

Both methods of research can be philosophically justified because they actually would work great hand in hand in one experiment. However, the practice of Qualitative research has a rich quality about it. This form of study gives leeway to freedom in experimentation. Not knowing exactly what you want to find out or learn in an experiment and a research process that is flexible is desirable to many researchers.

Two research methods in anthropology are Participant Observation and Survey Research. Participant Observation involves a researcher fully immersing themself in a culture for an extended amount of time in order to experience that culture “from within” (Donohue-Lynch, 2014). This requires the researcher to participate in daily activities to gain understanding of what it means to be a native. This type of research method allows the environment and subject matter to direct the method of research. Survey Research consists of surveys, interviews, and questionnaires that give insight to a large population. It is important to consider the audience when formulating a question. The researcher must consider culture, language, and age among many other things because the question can be easily misinterpreted. Interviewing the subjects ask direct questions and leads the experiment.

There are several methods of research in anthropology; however, Participant Observation appears to have some weight to its method. It seems that the best way to gain knowledge about a specific population would be to live like
they do rather than question them about it, or see it in the media, or reference history. The best way to lend yourself to discovery is by fully immersing yourself in it and letting go of control, let the data uncover itself through intrinsic experiences.

Each of the previously mentioned research methods is valuable to scientific study. Anthropological and Sociological research methods differ in that they aim to discover something different; they have different goals. Quantitative and Qualitative methods differ from each other in that the first utilizes a thesis and is better utilized at the beginning of an experiment and the latter does not have a clear set goal and is better utilized at the end of an experiment. However, they are the same in that they accurately examine a group of people or social group and are able to extrapolate information specific to their population through their research methods.

Participant Observation and Survey Research differ in that the first uses visual aides and immersing oneself into a culture to gain knowledge about the subject groups habits and experience what it is like to be part of that group by becoming a member and participating in daily activities, the latter focuses on questionnaires, verbal or written, in order to gain information about a specific group of people by communicating and directing them to provide information that you desire, the process is more rigid and requires more technology than participant observation. However, they share a likeness in that they both reach a specific group and are effective in retrieving desired information.

Donohue-Lynch, B. (2014). Cultural anthropology: Methods. Retrieved on September 5, 2014 from Neill, J. (2007) Qualitative versus quantitative research: Key points in a classic debate. Retrieved on September 4, 2014 from

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  • Date: 23 April 2016

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