What are the strengths and weaknesses of participant observation as a method?

Participant observation is a micro method used in conducting field work. Its strengths and weaknesses are mentioned below:


(i)It provides a very rich and detailed picture of the people on whom the research is being conducted.

(ii)The sociologist can talk to the native people of the community directly which helps in the authenticity of the data.

(iii)The sociologist is free to ask endless number of questions to the person. This is not possible in case of questionnaire and survey.

(iv)A daily record is maintained which reduces the chances of incomplete data.

(v) It helps in correcting initial impressions that may often be biased.

(vi) Because of the long hours spend with the field many errors and biases are avoided that are present in other methods.


(i) The method involves a lot of time and effort.

(ii) It also involves lot of expenses during the work.

(iii) It is not necessary that the report consists of the views of the insider or of the sociologist, as the sociologist may become consciously or unconsciously bias in selecting what to write and what not to.

(iv) There is no other version available to check or confirm the findings except the sociologist him/herself.

(v) The sociologist or anthropologist is only able to study a very small community. Therefore, it cannot be guaranteed that the observation of the study of the village is really common in the larger community.

(vi) The report of the sociologist based on participant observation method is often criticised to be biased by other sociologists because of the one-sided relationship they project. Hence, it is advised that the report should be translated in the local language of the community so that the people of the community can read and make sure that the report contains proper information.

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