Covert observations have long been an important method of social science research, allowing researchers to access groups of people who normally would not consent to being studied. However, while this type of research has often been seen as useful, it also raises many ethical concerns.
The use of a covert observer can be used for several reasons, including to engage in ‘innocent bystander’ observation or to gather data on activities or events that otherwise would not be possible or feasible. This can be a helpful way to get insight into the behaviour of particular groups, but it can also be risky, especially if the group in question has members who are at a high risk of harm or deviance.
A covert observer will generally not tell the group they are studying the reason for their presence, and may not even inform them of their true intentions or beliefs. This is a form of deception that can have serious ethical consequences, and it can be particularly dangerous if the group in question is a group of people who have been shown to be violent or who engage in other activities that are not socially acceptable.
In this case, the researcher is likely to be ‘going native’ (taking a very different set of views about their subject than that of the researchers themselves) and the observer could easily become biased in their conclusions. In addition, the covert observer is likely to be a stranger, and in this case they are more vulnerable to being questioned or manipulated by others who can see that they are not acting as they should be.
It is therefore important that a covert observer is well prepared for their role, and knows what to expect in terms of challenges. This includes ensuring that they know how to deal with authorities, and being aware of the risks of deception.
Covert observation is an essential part of social science research but it can be difficult to conduct, as it has a number of obstacles that make it hard for researchers to carry out their work properly. For example, it is sometimes difficult to gain permission from the participants before taking their photos or recordings, and some people may not be receptive to the idea of being observed at all.
When it comes to the actual act of being an observer, the process can be difficult and a lot of time is spent on getting to know the participants and building a relationship with them before the fieldwork starts. This is a crucial step in the process, as it ensures that the observations are relevant and that the research participants are not being influenced by the researcher’s views.
The use of a covert observer is an important method of social science research, but it can be difficult to conduct, as is the case with many other forms of research. For example, it is sometimes difficult to obtain permission from the participants before taking their photos or recording their actions, and some people may not be receptive, especially if the study involves a sensitive topic.