Participant Observation in Anthropology Essay

Participant Observation in Anthropology Essay

Length: 1760 words (5 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Term Papers

Open Document

Essay Preview


Participant observation is a method of collecting information and data about a culture and is carried out by the researcher immersing themselves in the culture they observing. The researcher becomes known in the community, getting to know and understand the culture in a more intimate and detailed way than would be possible from any other approach. This is done by observing and participating in the community’s daily activities. The method is so effective because the researcher is able to directly approach the people in the community in a natural context as opposed to taking the participant out of their environment. The aim of participant observation is to gain an understanding the subject’s life from their perspective, with the purpose of collecting more detailed information about a community’s habits, opinions, relationships and issues.


One of the major advantages of participant observation is the ability of the anthropologist to gain access to events, locations and intimate situations where outside observers would not be allowed. DeMunk and Sobo (1998) describe some benefits of the observation method over alternative methods of anthropological data collection including the fact that it allows admission to the “backstage culture” (DeMunk and Sobo 1998 p.43), it allows for intimately detailed description, and provides the anthropologist with opportunities to be a part of all events. DeWalt and DeWalt (2002 p.92) also suggest that it increases the quality of the data that has been collected and the interpretation of the anthropologist, as well as analysis of that data and assisting in the development of new research questions and hypotheses. However, DeMunk and Sobo (1998) also address some disadvantages of using the particip...


... middle of paper ...


...formity and Conflict: readings in cultural anthropology, 6th edn, Little Brown, Boston, pp. 34-43.

deMunck, Victor C. & Sobo, Elisa J. (Eds) (1998). Using methods in the field: a practical introduction and casebook. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

DeWalt, Kathleen M. & DeWalt, Billie R. (2002). Participant observation: a guide for fieldworkers. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Schensul, Stephen L.; Schensul, Jean J. & LeCompte, Margaret D. (1999). Essential ethnographic methods: observations, interviews, and questionnaires (Book 2 in Ethnographer's Toolkit). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.

Schultz, Emily A. & Lavenda, Robert H. 2005, Cultural Anthropology, 6th edn, Oxford University Press, New York, Chapter 3: Fieldwork.

Van Dongen, Els 2007, ‘Anthropology on Beds: the bed as the field of research’, Anthropology Today, vol. 23, no. 6, pp. 23-26

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

History, Anthropology, And Cultural Anthropology Essay

- Anthropology encompasses four main aspects in the field: archaeology, linguistics, physical anthropology, and cultural anthropology. All four areas must collect data and find a way to interpret the data collected. Data is then interpreted with the use of theories. The data would be useless to any anthropologist without any meaning. Theory helps an anthropologist choose what data to collect and how to interpret the results. Authors McGee and Warms assert that theory “helps us think about who and what we are as human beings,” (2)....   [tags: Anthropology, Culture, Sociology]

Term Papers
1358 words (3.9 pages)

Tim Asch 's Cultural Anthropology Essay

- Tim Asch is a well-known photographer, filmmaker, ethnographer, and a visual anthropologist. The main purpose of Tim Asch’s anthropological work was to “teach cultural anthropology to university undergraduates and to make the filmic materials accessible so that other scholars and teachers could make use of them in ways not imagined by him” (Ruby 1975, 115). With that being said, Asch was determined to do fieldwork (the process of living with people being studied, asking them questions, and surveying their environments and material possessions), and share his ideas, in order to develop the minds of future anthropologists and scholars....   [tags: Anthropology, Cultural anthropology, Culture]

Term Papers
1106 words (3.2 pages)

Essay on Anthropology And Its Impact On Society

- Anthropology, ‘a discipline with a rich and distinguished history of studying the everyday life of other cultures’, cited ou e214 intro tounit 4 analysing ‘social relationships’ kehily p163, corresponding to ‘family, religion, political and economic lives and how society works’. Anthropology was initially lectured in 1884 at Oxford, overlapping with geography and archaeology, heavily influenced by evolution. The majority of anthropology was studied at a distance, people studied were never encountered....   [tags: Anthropology, Culture, Sociology, Adolescence]

Term Papers
1271 words (3.6 pages)

Ethnographic Fieldwork : Cultural Anthropology Essay

- Ethnographic fieldwork helps to define and distinguish cultural anthropology in certain ways. The definition per ethnographic studies helps to distinguish cultural anthropology from other disciplines and helps to understand it and how it is carried out. Field work ethnography defines cultural anthropology as holism, cross culture comparison and observation by participation. Ethnographic fieldwork has a lot of advantages. Ethnographic fieldwork defines cultural anthropology to be holism. It stresses that cultural anthropology embraces a holistic perspective for the study of human behaviour....   [tags: Sociology, Anthropology, Culture]

Term Papers
797 words (2.3 pages)

Essay on What Makes The Discipline Of Anthropology Qualitative?

- STUDY UNIT 1 Question 1: What makes the discipline of anthropology qualitative in nature. Anthropology delves into the complexities of human societies, with a holistic approach to their culture and development. In doing so, the anthropological researcher ethically focuses on all human aspects and favours an approach that is centred on collecting and analysing data which is mostly non-numerical and rich in accumulative detail. Unlike in other scientific disciplines which favour quantitative research methods, anthropological researchers prefer using participant-observation techniques, as well as an emic approach in order to gain insight into the lives of the people being studied....   [tags: Anthropology, Sociology, Culture]

Term Papers
1504 words (4.3 pages)

The Father Of American Anthropology By Franz Boas Essay

- Beginning with historical particularism, it is the first American-born school of anthropology, founded by the “father of American Anthropology” Franz Boas. It was also born out of rejecting the previous social ideas of scientific racism as well as parallel evolution. Boas was originally trained in the physical sciences and shifted toward anthropology when he began to study Inuit migration patterns (McGee & Warms 2012: 112). He became an advocate of fieldwork, encouraging his students to collect detailed, in-depth studies of the culture being studied....   [tags: Anthropology, Franz Boas, Linguistic relativity]

Term Papers
1133 words (3.2 pages)

Cultural Anthropology : Sociology, Intervention, And Policy Development ( Gwynne Pp )

- Applied cultural anthropology is known to be “the use of ideas, techniques, and data derived from the field of cultural anthropology in the attempt to contribute to solutions to social problems” (Gwynne pp. 6). To be an applied anthropologist, you must have the basic skills of doing research, intervention, and policy development (Gwynne pp. 7-8). Applied anthropology has existed since the 19th century, but was not technically termed “applied anthropology.” Though researchers and anthropologists were interested in studying different cultures they also worked in academia....   [tags: Anthropology, Sociology, Cultural anthropology]

Term Papers
1613 words (4.6 pages)

Sociology vs. Cultural Anthropology Essay

- The research methods in sociology and anthropology are similar yet follow a specific set of guidelines for each. Each field approaches research in a similar fashion but the methodology and intentions can differ. The differences reflect the distinct differences that are present in sociology and anthropology. The way that an anthropologist approaches a problem and attempts to solve it is different than a sociologist because of the discerning basis of their knowledge. Some of the research methods require a researcher to be up close and personal with subjects while in other methods the subject don’t even realize they are being observed....   [tags: Sociology Essays]

Term Papers
943 words (2.7 pages)

What Ways Does Anthropology Facilitate A Better Understanding Of Cultural Difference?

- In what ways does anthropology facilitate a better understanding of cultural difference. ANTHROPOLOGY is a relatively new discipline in the academic field of social science; concerning itself with the examination of humankind and the comparative study of cultures and societies within our race. Eriksen defines the parameters of anthropological disciplines in juxtaposition to the similar study of sociology in his book 'Small places, Large issues’ (Pluto press 2001). “Anthropology has traditionally distinguished itself from sociology through the great emphasis placed on participant observation and fieldwork… Sociology has concentrated on understanding, criticising and managing modern societi...   [tags: Anthropology, Sociology, Culture]

Term Papers
706 words (2 pages)

Anthropology and Social Work Essay

- Anthropology and Social Work Anthropologists like myself try to figure out why present day humans are the way they are. Meredith F. Small Female Choices Who are we. How old is the human species. Where did we come from. What do we believe and why. Is our own culture the epitome of civilization. What is reality. How have we arrived at a position where destroying the earth doesn't bother us very much. These, and many, many more are the questions that drive anthropologists to study human beings and our interactions....   [tags: Anthropology Humanity Essays]

Term Papers
2689 words (7.7 pages)