Participant Observation

Observations are a further means used by ethnographers to collect data for research. In observations, researchers watch personal happenings in specific contexts, by making themselves suitable to the environment, but not part of it. Participant observation enables provision of explanations, contexts, reasons and reinforcement for assumptions, and as such will take place often during research and at different times.

Researchers who use observations to collect information must be intimate partners, as much as possible, in the lives and activities of participants. They must act skilfully, as an internal observer of everything that happens, see and feels things as part of a group without influencing participants’ behaviour. This way, researchers can study the culture of a subject group in depth, and accordingly explain participants’ behaviour and events (Genzuk 2003).

Observations enable distinction between behaviours and gestures, examination of interactions and lack of interaction between people, listening to formal and random conversations and their tone and seeing people’s movements and extent of their presence (Guest et al. 2013). They take place in natural surroundings and researchers report what they saw, heard and felt from their point of view.

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