3.2 Aspects The kind of role played by the observer within a group is of crucial importance. The role played will affect the type of observations the researcher is able to make and the sort of interpretations that follow. The purpose of the research will, conversely, affect the role adopted, the scope of the study and the integration of other techniques.
When undertaking observation the researcher must decide on an overall strategy. There are a variety of aspects that observation research needs to take into account, including the:
1. extent of participation: non-participant, associate, partial participant, complete participant—also known as the observer role;
2. degree of openness: secret (covert), partially open, fully open (overt);
3. amount of explanation provided to the research subjects: no-explanation, deceit, partial explanation, full explanation;
4. degree of obtrusiveness of the researcher: unobtrusive, obtrusive;
5. degree of active participation: passive (neutral), active (influential);
6. focus: single focus, multiple focus, holistic;
7. length and frequency of observation: single event, repeat single, multiple, full-time.
The following sections explore these in more detail with examples. As was noted in Section 1, social research raises ethical issues and observation research, particularly participant observation research, tends to amplify the issues (discussed in Section 10).