Participatory vs. Non-Participatory Observation
The Participation element relates to the degree of participation of the observer in the social situation to be observed by him.
Participatory observers take part in the natural environment of the person being questioned, and are in contact with them to a more or less intensive extent.
This form of observation can benefit from the identification of the observer with a field of observation, as it provides an internal understanding of the observed patterns of behaviour.
The Non-Participating observer concentrates fully on his or her role and as a researching observer, taking little or no part in the interactions/situations to be investigated.
More precise records can be made by Non-Participatory Observations, as the observer can concentrate fully on his/her own role. Non-Participatory Observation is also accorded a high degree of objectivity and inter-subjective verifiability, since the observation is effectively external and disinterested. However, this very situation also contains the risk that the observer will remain distant from the natural environment of the people being investigated, thus transferring his/her own explanatory models over to the group or situation under observation.