Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-19, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 23 January, 2019 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2019.


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Non-participant observation

core definition

Non-participant observation is a means of direct observation used by social researcher that does not involve the observer participating directly in the activities being observed or in the social life of the subject group.

explanatory context

Non-participant observation takes several forms. At oneextreme is the use of one-way mirrors, video-recording devices.etc. in order to observe without being seen.


Another approach is to be in the vicinity of the social interactions of interest without being part of them, such as researcher of crowd behaviour at a football match who is in the crowd but is not actually taking part in the activities of the section of the crowd under observation.


A more 'involved' approach is to be in close and overt proximity without taking part, for example wearing a white coat in a hospital and going around with a doctor without being involved directly in the doctor-patient interaction.

analytical review

associated issues


related areas

See also



participant obeservation


Researching the Real World Section 3



copyright Lee Harvey 2012–2019


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