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Participant Observation

  • By: Paul Rollinson
  • In: Encyclopedia of Geography
  • Edited by: Barney Warf
  • Subject:General Geography, Earth & Environmental Science

Participant observation is a research methodology with roots in anthropology. It has a well-established tradition in exploratory social science and geography. In practice, participant observation shares several characteristics with ethnography. One of the aims of participant observation is to uncover the everyday life of different groups within society. It is generally agreed that participant observation is a broad observational approach that is not used in isolation from other methods, such as more quantitative techniques. Participant observation has been used by geographers to explore a wide variety of populations and settings.

The methodology originated in the fieldwork of social anthropologists such as Bronislaw Mal-inowski, but participant observation's heritage in geography is perhaps best linked to the Chicago School of sociology during the 1920s and 1930s. Nels Anderson's ...

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