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Dictionary

Observation, overt and covert

JDHN BREWER

Observation is a fundamental part of social life and is critical to many forms of social interaction and work. Thus, it is necessary to distinguish between observation done to accomplish everyday life and work and that done to understand them. Here again, observation is an inherent part of many types of research; it forms part of laboratory experiments as mice are observed in mazes or chemicals in test tubes. In social research there are two parameters along which observation can be categorised as a research tool. The more familiar typology is based on the degree of participation by the researcher in what is being studied; the other is structured around the level of awareness subjects have of being observed. In the first case the normal contrast is between unobtrusive and participant observation, in the latter, covert and overt observation, and the two sets of distinctions are related. In participant observation ...

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