Participant Observation as a Data Collection Method


  • Barbara B. Kawulich University of West Georgia



participant observation, qualitative research methods, field notes


Observation, particularly participant observation, has been used in a variety of disciplines as a tool for collecting data about people, processes, and cultures in qualitative research. This paper provides a look at various definitions of participant observation, the history of its use, the purposes for which it is used, the stances of the observer, and when, what, and how to observe. Information on keeping field notes and writing them up is also discussed, along with some exercises for teaching observation techniques to researchers-in-training. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0502430


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Author Biography

Barbara B. Kawulich, University of West Georgia

Barbara B. KAWULICH teaches research methods at the University of West Georgia in Carrollton, Georgia (USA), in the College of Education. Her research interests include qualitative research, particularly ethnographic studies, and action research. Her personal areas of research interest involve issues affecting American Indian women, specifically Muscogee (Creek) women.



How to Cite

Kawulich, B. B. (2005). Participant Observation as a Data Collection Method. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2).