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24 APRIL 2016

The Stances of the Observer in Participant Observation

"The degree to which the researcher involves himself/herself in participation in the culture under study makes a difference in the quality and amount of data he/she will be able to collect. GOLD (1958) has provided a description of observer stances that extend Buford JUNKER's explanation of four theoretical stances for researchers conducting field observations. GOLD relates the four observation stances as follows:

At one extreme is the complete participant, who is a member of the group being studied and who conceals his/her researcher role from the group to avoid disrupting normal activity. The disadvantages of this stance are that the researcher may lack objectivity, the group members may feel distrustful of the researcher when the research role is revealed, and the ethics of the situation are questionable, since the group members are being deceived.

In the participant as observer stance, the researcher is a member of the group being studied, and the group is aware of the research activity. In this stance, the researcher is a participant in the group who is observing others and who is interested more in observing than in participating, as his/her participation is a given, since he/she is a member of the group. This role also has disadvantages, in that there is a trade off between the depth of the data revealed to the researcher and the level of confidentiality provided to the group for the information they provide.

The observer as participant stance enables the researcher to participate in the group activities as desired, yet the main role of the researcher in this stance is to collect data, and the group being studied is aware of the researcher's observation activities. In this stance, the researcher is an observer who is not a member of the group and who is interested in participating as a means for conducting better observation and, hence, generating more complete understanding of the group's activities. MERRIAM (1998) points out that, while the researcher may have access to many different people in this situation from whom he/she may obtain information, the group members control the level of information given. As ADLER and ADLER (1994, p.380) note, this 'peripheral membership role' enables the researcher to 'observe and interact closely enough with members to establish an insider's identity without participating in those activities constituting the core of group membership.'

The opposite extreme stance from the complete participant is the complete observer, in which the researcher is completely hidden from view while observing or when the researcher is in plain sight in a public setting, yet the public being studied is unaware of being observed. In either case, the observation in this stance is unobtrusive and unknown to participants. [21]"

(Barbara B. Kawulich, 2005)

Kawulich, B. (2005). 'Participant Observation as a Data Collection Method'. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2). Retrieved from



2005 • Barbara Kawulich • Buford Junker • complete observer stance • complete participant stance • confidentiality • data collection method • data collection techniquesdeceptiondistrustfield methods • field observation • field research • field researcher • Forum Qualitative Social Researchgroup membershipobjectivity • observation stances • observer as participant stance • observer stances • participant as observer stance • participant observation • Patricia Adler • peripheral membership role • Peter Adler • qualitative research • questionable ethics • Raymond Gold • researcher • researcher role • Sharan Merriam • sociological field observation • theoretical stances for researchers • typology of the participant observer roles


Simon Perkins

Organisations, practices, actors, and events: Exploring inside the distance running social world

"This paper revisits Unruh's notions of social worlds, exploring the organisations, practices, events and actors involved within the culture of distance running, as an increasingly popular leisure activity. An ethnographic research design was utilised using a combination of interviews, observation and participant observation. Data was collected over a two-year period on a weekly basis at two local distance running clubs, and also at a series of international distance running events. This study examines the distance running world from the 'emic' perspective of the twenty participants involved. The key findings illustrate how the distance running social world permits both development and confirmation of a running identity and, with it, social fulfilment. In addition to the four main components of a distance running social world, this paper highlights a paradox whereby individuals follow an individual pursuit within the social world of the distance running community – highlighting that the focus is on both the individual and the social, an area which sociologists have to date not extensively analysed within the context of sport."

(Richard Shipway, Immy Holloway and Ian Jones, 2013)

Richard Shipway, Immy Holloway, Ian Jones (2013). "Organisations, practices, actors, and events: Exploring inside the distance running social world", International Review for the Sociology of Sport 2013;48 259-276.


2013anthropology • behavioural science • collective identityDavid Unruh • distance runner • distance running • distance running community • emic • emic perspective • emics • ethnographic researchfield research • folkloristics • group membership • healthy body • healthy mind • Ian Jones • identity production • Immy Holloway • individual pursuit • interview (research method)leisure activity • observer • participant observation • Richard Shipway • running • running body • running club • running community • running identity • serious leisure • social fulfillment • social fulfilment • social groupsocial identity • social identity theory • social sciencesocial worldsocial worldssport and recreation • sport ethnography • sport tourism


Simon Perkins
22 JUNE 2011

Examination of Theses in the Creative Arts: The Exegesis

"4.2 The main purpose of the exegesis is to support and complement the creative work by providing the context and background of the creative work. The Degree Rules state that the exegesis must 'provide a rationale for the techniques and strategies adopted in the creative work and must situate them in relation to a theoretical and/or historical cultural context. Where appropriate, it may include a sustained account of the creative process.

4.5 In communication, the exegesis will provide an analytical documentation of the creative work. The exegesis will provide, for example, an analytical documentation of the creative production, a parallel critical support to the body of work produced, or a contextual, polemic extension to the broadcast work.

4.6 In design/illustration, the exegesis may take a number of forms, for example, an analytical documentation of design/illustration process and/or field research, a parallel critical support to the project or body of work produced or a contextual critical review of the project.

5.0 Word Length

5.1 Although there is no prescribed word length for the accompanying exegesis it is recommended that this should normally comprise 12,000 – 25,000 words for a Masters and 20,000 – 35,000 words for a Doctoral submission and should not normally exceed 40,000 words excluding appendices, tables and illustrative matter."

(The University of Newcastle, Australia, 28 August 2009)


analytical documentation • Australia • body of work • context and background of the creative work • contextual • contextual critical review • creative artscreative process • creative production • creative work • critical support to the project • cultural contextdoctoral submission • Examination of Theses • exegesisfield research • historical context • MA • Masters submission • oeuvre • parallel critical support • PhDrationale • research document • sustained account • techniques and strategies • theoretical context • University of Newcastle


Simon Perkins
11 OCTOBER 2009

Practice-led research in Higher Arts Education

"For intelligent professional practice it is therefore better when theory is linked with practice. Already for years active experimentation has been carried out in forms of lessons in which theory and practice are linked to each other and which mutually stimulate each other. The sociology teacher helps the documentary photographer in his field research. The semiotics teacher helps the student in his reflection on designs in terms of the production of meaning. The art history teacher helps the illustrator to place his work in an art–historical perspective. Furthermore, reflection is the examination of a particular process, reflexion (the process of reflexivity) is the mutual reflection of theory in practice and of practice in theory."

(Anke Coumans, 2002)



2002 • Anke Coumans • arts educationBologna Processcontemporary arteducation • ELIA • European League of Institutes of the Artsfield researchfine art • fine art and design • Hogeschool voor de Kunsten • Netherlandsparadox • practice in theory • practice-ledpractice-led researchprofessional practice • reflexion • reflexivityresearchsemiotics • theory in practice • Utrechtvisual art academicsvisual arts


Simon Perkins

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