Research Methods- a Case Example of Participant Observation

Research Methods- a Case Example of Participant Observation

The review entails an article “Research Methods- a Case Example of Participant Observation” by Jessica Iacono, Ann Brown and Clive Holtham. In this article, authors, Iacono, Brown, and Holtham (2009) discuss the research concepts that entail participant observation and reflective practitioner. Moreover, the article explains the advantages and challenges of participant observation and provides an outline on the manner an individual can manage the challenge posed by this approach. Precisely, the article begins by examining qualitative research methods and the various aspects involved before introducing participant observation. According to the article, the main methods that use participant observation to collect data are ethnography and case research. A participant observer can acquire knowledge about an organization by examining the organization’s data such as financial records and company’s files (Iacono, Brown & Holtham, 2009). Second, the researcher can become part of the phenomenon under study.

Regarding the case research in this article, the prediction was that the emergence of the electronic marketplace would revolutionize the current practices of business. Additionally, the electronic market analysis suggests that the Information Technology will offer a massive market control by increasing the role played by the intermediary (Iacono, Brown & Holtham, 2009). The case research entails steel traders. The benefit of participant observation is that the approach allows one to develop the ability to utilize the tacit knowledge of experts involved in the industry and initiate the perception of groups that involve buyers and sellers.  The limitation is that outsiders find it hard to access fieldwork due to the confidentiality concerns.

Although research is an empirical study, that does not allow it to be objective. The article contributes to contemporary thinking about research in the following ways. First, the article supports qualitative methodologies. One can find useful things by examining at processes through case studies by describing them in details and accurately rather than by counting or by allowing people to give stories in their own way rather than restricting them to choose given answers. Therefore, the qualitative methods that are ideal for researchers include case research and ethnography. With ethnography, the researcher is required to conduct the study of the phenomena within its socials and cultural setting (Iacono, Brown & Holtham, 2009). On the other hand, in a case study, the researcher has to focus on studying the phenomenon within its natural environment. Second, the article contributes to the contemporary thinking about research by discussing ethics of research. The article suggests that a participant observer should exercise ethics when conducting the research. The researcher should not conduct the investigation in a covert manner. However, participant observation exhibit ethical dilemma and the researcher should consider such a situation.

Decision-making in an organization is critical in determining its operations and performance. Research plays a significant role in ensuring that the management makes successful decisions regarding the business. The case research in the articles discusses steel traders and the factors influencing the viability of electronic marketplaces. Understanding the role of steel traders requires one to have knowledge of the business environment, practices, culture and interpersonal relationship. Therefore, research plays a key role in managerial decision-making. The organization’s management employ research when analyzing and evaluating strategic business areas. Similarly, they use research when creating techniques for organization’s efficient procedures. For instance, in the case study, the electronic market hypothesis indicates that the Information Technology will offer a massive market control by increasing the role played by the intermediary. Therefore, the management will use such information to develop strategies that will help the organization prosper. Moreover, as a participant observer, one can collect rich qualitative data of a rival organization and use the information to strengthen the strategies and make well-informed decisions.

The information in this article includes role of a participant observer and reflective practitioner, benefits of participant observation, research design and guidance on how an individual can manage the challenge posed by participant observation. Since the information in this article is significant, I can apply it to my field in the following ways. The information on qualitative research method is useful in sociology since I can use the approach to collect data as a participant observer. Moreover, as a social researcher, I can use the case study in the study of information system in organizations. Regarding the benefits of participant observation, one can use the knowledge of the approach to inquire from the inside of an organization and use the information in management research. One can manage participant observation in the field of sociology by alternating between inside and outside inquiry of information, analyzing the evidence objectively through comparing the information with extant literature and using within case and cross case analysis.

The topic of this article is relevant. The topic covers research methods and provides a case example of a participant observation. The article has an interesting topic that researchers will find useful when trying to examine qualitative methodologies. The topic of this article gives one the motivation to learn more about qualitative research methods and understand the role played by the participant observer in the social and cultural setting. Moreover, with the topic, one can be eager to learn the main aspect of qualitative research such as data collection and analysis



Iacono, J., Brown, A., & Holtham, C. (2009). Research methods–A case example of participant observation. Electronic journal of business research methods, 7(1), 39-46.

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