Part I – Participant Observation
Sociologists use research to collect information about society and apply their findings to everyday life in order to better understand the human condition. Sociologists can investigate people in their natural environments by becoming part of their everyday settings to observe and study participants.
Imagine you are a practicing sociologist who is researching the behavior of social groups in social settings.
Conduct a participant observation in a setting where a group of people gathers. Examples of places with groups include malls, grocery stores, libraries, restaurants, coffee shops, parks, schools, employee break rooms, parking lots, pubs, sporting events, or your local neighborhood.
Station yourself in a safe location where you can observe participants for 60 minutes without having to approach or engage the public. You are just observing people, not interacting with them.
Use the Field Study Observation Template to collect field notes on the following data about the individuals in your observation, as you perceive it:
(Your numbers do not need to be exact, but try to make them as accurate as possible. You do not need to submit these notes with your assignment—they are only for you to reference to guide your observation.)
Part II – Reflection Report
Write a 525- to 700-word report about your observation. Include the following information:
- Describe the setting of your observation, including the location, time of day (morning, midday, afternoon, evening), and weather.
2) Group Dynamics
- What patterns of group behavior did you observe that may have been influenced by the setting?
- What patterns of group behavior did you observe based on gender/sex?
- What patterns of group behavior did you observe based on race/ethnicity?
- What patterns of group behavior did you observe based on age?
- Which cultural norms did you observe among your participants? Explain your answer in several sentences using at least one example.
- What did you observe overall about the group dynamics of your participants? Explain your answer in several sentences using at least one example.
- What social or economic factors might have influenced the group dynamics you observed? Explain your answer in several sentences.
3) Real-World Applications
- Consider how you could use a participant observation exercise in the future to study patterns in other social groups, such as with families, coworkers, or other organizations.
- Explain how observing social patterns could help your interactions in a group. Give at least one reason why improving your understanding of group dynamics can help you to succeed in culturally diverse environments.