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Chapter 7

CCJS 300 Chapter Notes - Chapter 7: Participant Observation, Verstehen, Jargon

Criminology and Criminal Justice
Course Code
CCJS 300
Alan Lehman

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-Verbal reports versus verbal behavior: critiques argue that there is often little relationship
between attitude and behavior
-More “sensitizing” strategies involving field studies contain greater accuracy
-Error of measurement
-Design imperfections
-Only perfect research is no research
-Participant observation: researchers study a group in its natural setting by participating in the
activities of the group
-May be viewed as the beginning point of all other research
-Verstehen approach: Weber’s notion that researchers understand a group by immersing
themselves in the world of the group
-Types: complete participation, participant as observer, observer as participant, complete
-Complete participation: researcher joins in and manipulates direction of group activity
-Participant as observer: researcher usually makes presence known and tries to objectively
observe the activities of the group
-Observer as participant: one-visit interview
-Complete observation: experimental and unobtrusive measures
-Participant observation is very demanding on time and personal costs; dangers of
overidentification and repulsion
-Observer must attempt to operate mentally on two different levels: becoming an insider while
remaining an outsider
-Researcher should remain objective: approach to subject matter from an unbiased, ethically
neutral, or value-free perspective
-Going native: the tendency of observers to overidentify with groups
-Generally not a good idea to attempt to study a group in which one has been a lifelong member
-Field notes: the keeping of a detailed and extensive diary during field research
-Word crunching: use of computers in analysis, has increased
-Mnemonics: simple memorizing devices that are particularly useful in field studies
-Photographing can also be used as a recording method
-Visual criminology: the use of photographs in field studies
-Subject is in greater jeopardy as a result of being studied in the field than is someone in jail
-Avoid taking notes on the spot
-Initially, researchers should spend their time observing and listening and avoiding asking a lot
of questions
-Learn the jargon of the group
-Helpful to get an introduction to a gatekeeper, leader, or person who is willing to accept the
purpose of the study and vouch for the researcher’s presence
-Indicate true purpose early on
-Use of standard sampling procedures is inappropriate
-Protection of identity and reciprocity necessary
-Employ other methods to further validate findings when possible
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