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Methods: participant observation
chapterposted on 2023-06-07, 17:18 authored by Katie WalshKatie Walsh
Originally a research method associated with the discipline of anthropology, participant observation has increasingly been embraced by human geographers to explore a wide range of social and cultural spaces, sites, practices, and identities. Participant observation involves the researcher becoming part of the group being researched and reflecting on their experiences and the meaning systems they learn in the process. Key practices for those conducting participant observation that help distinguish this qualitative research method from others, include the long-term and ongoing negotiation of in-depth access to the field site; the adoption of covert and overt strategies; and the writing of field notes. Central methodological debates discussed in the article are: (1) critiques of participant observation as being 'unscientific'; (2) the use of critical reflexivity to help analyze the impact of the researcher on the research; (3) the deconstruction of the insider/outsider dualism; and (4) the ethical dilemmas surrounding field relationships.
Book titleInternational encyclopedia of human geography
Department affiliated with
- Geography Publications
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