There are both advantages and disadvantages of all types of observing. These include: Covert participant observation (CPO) and overt participant observation (OPO).
The advantages of CPO are as follows:
-less chance of hawthorne effect (this is where the participant acts in a certain way to give the researcher the results they think the research wants)
-very valid results
-sometimes, it's the only way
The disadvantages of CPO are as follows:
-may get the researcher in to dangerous situations and illegal behaviour (see james patrick: A glasgow gang observed)
-if the researcher witness crimes; do they report them?
-if the researcher has a key informant (a person who knows that the researcher is such and not actually a true part of the group) they are putting KI in danger
-can the researcher trust the KI?
-researcher can become too close and can't detach at end of observation
-participants can feel betrayed, especially of they discover the researcher
-difficult to maintain confidentiality
-can be very difficult to find a group to observe or a KI
The advantages of OPO are as follows:
-not as dangerous for the researcher
-researcher gets informed consent; making it more ethical
-it's easier to make notes as the researcher doesn't need to worry about being discovered
-can get more detailed results as the researcher can talk to the participants
The disadvantages of OPO are as follows:
-high risk of hawthorne effect
-participants have to agree to be observed
The Observation method of research is basically developed for observing people in their natural setting. It focuses more on their everyday normal life. There are two types of Observation methods:
- Non-Participant observation
- Participant Observation
Following are the advantages of this method:
- It helps in overcoming issues of validity, bias etc
- It is useful when the subject can not provide information.
- It is also useful when the subject is feared to provide inaccurate information.
Following are the disadvantages:
- Past events being studied
- Frequently measuring attitudes or opinions
- Selecting sample is tricky
- Time and costs are high - can be automated
- Ethical issues
Advantages of overt observation-
it avoids ethical problem of obtaining information by deciet,
it allows the researcher to use interview methods to check insights derived from observations
can create hawthorne effect
You can observe and record peoples activity is an advantage. Disadvantage is they may not act like their true self during observation.