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Media Research

ALC303 Media Research Practices Task 1: Participant Observation Exercise
This task is equivalent to 800 words, (20%)
Due Week 3: Thursday 24 March by 11:59pm
Learning about a social group and its culture (or subculture) through acting as a member of the
group is called participant observation. Participant observers try to become a member of the
group they are studying. They try not to impose their own cultural worldview – their
assumptions about how things should be or what things mean. They take systematic notes
about their experiences and observations (what is said and done). For this task we would like
you to become a participant observer somewhere on campus – think cafes or the library (easy
enough). Or you might prefer to sit in a cinema complex or fast-food outlet.
Start with an idea to examine such as ‘Does the mobile phone play a big part in the life of a
student/young person?’ or ‘Do computers allow us to work anywhere/anytime?’, but you might
come up with your own question.
Make notes to be written up in detail later about:
1. How people are spending their time;
2. What order things are done in;
3. Who seems to be together?
Make some notes about your reactions, such as:
• What things seem to be important to some people that is not so important to others;
• What seems to be the ‘norm’ or expectation of behaviour in the group of people that
you are observing?
You do not need to speak to the people that you are observing. If you know them, do not record
their names. Instead use an abbreviation in your notes such as ‘J’ for John to assure anonymity.
We will be talking about ethics in weeks 1 and 2.
Some steps to follow in writing up your exercise:
Begin by explaining your general research problem in broad terms. Why is it important? How
does your specific research question relate to it? Give your reader a good idea about the kind of
participant observation task that you did to answer the question. Good exercises will note some
supporting literature on the topic e.g., current journal articles or books on your topic.
Next describe your results in detail. Prove your reader with enough information to reach the
same conclusions that you did.
Finally, make some concluding comments about the most important things that you learned.
What is their significance? Do they tell us something important about ourselves as a culture,
about human society in general? Are there any recommendations that you would make for the
Cite any works noted in the exercise.


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