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Participant Observation

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Category: Social Issues

Autor: anton 15 March 2011

Words: 675 | Pages: 3

On Monday October 16, 2006 at 12:00 pm I sat down with eight white males while they ate lunch. My intentions were simple; to observe a few normal men while in their most comfortable atmosphere. I wanted to get a feel for what guys talk about with their friends and what manner they go about discussing it in. I theorized that in the lunch room at a table with a group of friends was the perfect place to bond and socialize. Coming into the experiment I expected to hear endless conversation about sports, women, jokes, and the weekend. The interactions between the men were easy-going and useful to my study. The participants made me feel accepted and comfortable while observing their interactions with one another.

I chose the Main Dining Room at Ohio State University around noon – lunch time – in order to ensure that a sample of my target group was represented. The first task I made sure I completed when I sat down was to inform the people what was going on. I told them for the next half hour or so I would be conducting a participant observation experiment and all they needed to do for me was go about their lunch as if I wasn’t there. They asked me a few questions like – Why? For what class? What professor? I told them I was doing it as a project for my social research methods class taught by Smith. Immediately after they were informed they seemed uninterested and went back to conversing and eating. At this point, after I made it clear what I was doing, I pulled out my pen and paper and continued to take notes.

At first I surveyed the table, observed how many people were sitting down, as well as their sex and race. I identified all eight of the men as either football players or non-football players. There were five and three, respectively. Then I took notes, I took notes on everything from what they were discussing to who was discussing it. I observed what time people left and who they left with. As the participants slowly finished their lunch’s I wondered to myself how long they would stay and socialize with one another. As time passed one of the groups of men were still talking about ‘Madden Football,’ the same subject they were talking about when they sat down. But I switched my attention to the far end of the table and noticed that the group’s conversation had changed from the stock market and money to what they were “getting into this weekend.”

All of the participants seemed to feel comfortable with one another and seemed to have no problem discussing everyday matters with one another. As I scanned the table the body movements and posture of all the men were slow and relaxed. It was obvious all of them were extremely at ease with one another. At this point I felt comfortable with what I was doing and felt as if I was accomplishing something myself. I also began to answer some of my own questions that I had asked myself prior to beginning the experiment.

I encountered some small problems while taking notes on my observations. First of all I have a broken hand and have a hard time writing at times. Secondly at times through out the experiment interactions were happening too quickly for me to write everything down at once while they were happening. So at times I was a little behind on my writing.

Through out the course of the observation, my theory was proven to be correct. Going into the experiment I thought that the lunch room would be a great place for a group of friends to bond and socialize. Time after time I was proven right when the subjects easily bounced from subject to subject so nonchalantly with ease and comfort in one another. I am glad the experiment worked out the way it did.

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