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Dictionary

NON-PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION

Karen Handley

Observation methods have a long tradition in organizational research, and offer the promise of ‘thick descriptions’ (Geertz, 1973) of what people ‘really’ do as opposed to what they say they do [action science] . Although very few researchers subscribe to an a-theoretical assumption that observation allows them to ‘see (and tell) it how it is’, there is still a temptation to believe that observational research provides an unproblematic window on to real-world behaviours, events and settings [constructivism; phronetic organizational research] . Having said that, thoughtful and judicious use of observational methods provides one of the most effective ways to begin to understand what goes on in naturalistic settings. Observation methods come in several forms, of which participant observation (q.v.) [field research] is probably the most widely known. Participant observation is traditionally associated with anthropology and particularly the Chicago school of sociology. Non-participant observation which, although sharing many of the In ...

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