This option is used to identify the attitudes and operation of a community by a researcher living within its environs.
"The participant observer becomes known within the community, and gets to know the community in a more intimate and detailed way than someone who simply comes to do a survey and then departs. The participant observer consequently is given much more detailed information, and may identify specific issues and assist groups to address these by developing mutually agreed principles and practices.
Objectives: A participant observer is placed in a community with the aim of collecting more detailed information about a community’s habits, opinions and issues and with a view to developing planning and policies that better incorporate the community’s needs and wishes.
Outcomes: Information about a community collected by a participant observer can ensure that planning and decision making incorporates community needs and opinions, and will therefore be more acceptable and more useful to the community."
This description comes from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (2005), Book 3: The Engagement Toolkit.Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders, The Community Engagement Network Resource and Regional Services Division Victorian Government Department of Sustainability and Environment.
Advice for USING this option
- Researcher lives in or regularly visits the site/suburb/organisation.
- Observations are made by the researcher regarding opinions or reactions to particular issues.
- Researchers should state their intentions openly, and integrate themselves into the community.
- The conclusions drawn by the researcher depend largely on the researcher’s abilities, and should be seen within this context.
- Generally, participant observation should be combined with actual participation techniques to be of any value.
- The Engagement Toolkit: Page 62 of this resource provides a detailed description and advice for using this option, including the estimated costs, skills and resources needed.
- Participant observation and field notes: This web page from the Ethnographic Action Research (EAR) Training Handbook provides guidance on using participant observation as a research method. The page provides links to resources that help the user develop basic questions in order to challenge perceptions and also create detailed field notes of observations.
Department of Sustainability and Environment (2005). Book 3: The Engagement Toolkit.Effective Engagement: building relationships with community and other stakeholders, The Community Engagement Network Resource and Regional Services Division Victorian Government Department of Sustainability and Environment. Retrieved from http://www.dse.vic.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0003/105825/Book_3_-_The_Engagement_Toolkit.pdf
Man at citadel in Cairo Egypt by Deborah Kerwood