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Participant Observation

Participant observation is a qualitative data collection methodology that provides rich descriptive information on human behaviors and experiences in a particular context. This approach enables a researcher to participate in a social group and observe people as well as the environment. In doing so, the researcher develops a holistic understanding of how people make sense of their experiences and what is occurring around them. Participant observation is used in disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, and education.

This entry describes the process of participant observation, focusing on (a) the researcher’s level of involvement, (b) reflexivity of the participant observer, (c) types of observation conducted, (d) observation record, and (e) fieldwork analysis. The entry concludes with an overview of the advantages and disadvantages of the participant observation method.

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