18.104.22.168 Introduction For critical social researchers, observation is a method of obtaining empirical evidence, with no more or less credibility than any other evidence-gathering approach. Critical social researchers are not particularly concerned with the debates about the status of observational data: is it objective, valid, reliable, authentic? Can one generalise from observational data? The key to critical research (as noted in Section 2) is that it situates evidence in a socio-historical context and relates it dialectically to wider social structures.
Critical social researchers tend to use observation:
• to deconstruct culture, for example to show how cultural adaptations are made that counter or accommodate structural formations, processes or inequality: : including people's connivance in their own oppression;
• to provide insights and rich description of social phenomena, which provide a basis for digging beneath surface appearances (see Critical Social ReearchChapter 1.6) and aid in debunking myths, unravelling inconsistent presuppositions and taken-for-granteds;
• as part of multi-technique critical community studies
Although there are variations in the work of critical ethnographers, the core is to use first-hand data to enable an analysis or evaluation of prevailing systems and structures. For critical social researchers, unlike for some phenomenologists, meanings are not important in themselves.