Conducting an Unplanned Participant Observation: The Case of a Non-Birder in Bird Watchers' Land


  • Roni Berger Adelphi University



bird watching, birders, participant observation, accidental observation, serendipity in qualitative research, subculture


This article describes two participant observations of birdwatchers, which occurred by serendipity. Characteristics of personal and interpersonal behavior patterns are identified and illustrated. Specifically, four themes including total immersion and dedication to details of birders as well the collaborative-competitive nature of their interactions and sub-culture are discussed in the context of available knowledge about subcultures in other types of sports and leisure activities. Methodological and ethical aspects of unplanned participant observation are also addressed.



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Author Biography

Roni Berger, Adelphi University

Dr. Roni BERGER is a professor at Adelphi University in New York, where she teaches courses on qualitative and relational systems research and on trauma and posttraumatic growth. She is a Fulbright scholar who received her Bachelor, Master and Doctorate in social work from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research focuses on trauma in cultural context. In addition she is a licensed therapist and provides consultation nationally and internationally.





How to Cite

Berger, R. (2016). Conducting an Unplanned Participant Observation: The Case of a Non-Birder in Bird Watchers’ Land. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 18(1).