In this post I consider a ‘top band’ answer (provided by the AQA here) which achieved 10/10.
Outline and explain two advantages of choosing overt participant observation as a source of data compared with covert participant observation (10)
The Mark Scheme:
Note: there are no marks for evaluation on the 10 mark no item questions (there are for the ‘analyse with the item’ 10 mark questions!)
Highlighted to show the different stages of development.
One advantage is that participants are aware you are researching them and so you’re able to write down notes about what you are observing and record it. However, with covert PO you are unable to do so because it would be suspicious, especially if you are observing dangerous ways of life. For example, Venkatesh’s required covert PO as he was unable to write down all the information and relied on retrospective data – from his memory. This means the data could lack validity because he could have forgotten less important aspects from the observation. This issue doesn’t arise with overt observation and so the data is more likely to be valid.
Overt PO is more objective and can be ethical. The participants are aware that the data is for a study and publication and they are less likely to withdraw. Whereas with covert PO, informed consent has not been collected and participants, after realising they have been deceived may choose to withdraw and not allow the researchers to use the data collected. This means that the data from covert PO may go unpublished and the researcher may have to reconduct another research method, wasting time and energy.
Examiner Commentary: (10/10 marks)
- It seems that the examiners just want you to explicitly compare overt with covert… simple really, punishingly simple.
- And what was that your teacher told you about case studies?! Obviously here, they matter not at all!
Student responses with examiner
AS AND A-LEVEL
Reproduced here for educational purposes!
This post has been written primarily for students of A-level sociology, for more advice on exams please see this page – Exams, essays and short answer questions.
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