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Chapter 4 Ethnography and the myth of participant observation

New Frontiers in Ethnography

ISBN: 978-1-84950-942-8, eISBN: 978-1-84950-943-5

Publication date: 21 December 2010


As already indicated, I first became aware of the power of the myth of participant observation during my doctoral research, conducted in a government high school in Perth, Western Australia in 1998–1999. I remember well the day when, while writing one of the chapters of my thesis, it suddenly occurred to me that much of what I was recording as data, in what I was blithely calling a participant observer study, were the “droppings of talk” from informal conversations and formal interviews that had taken place with the teachers, students, and parents associated with the school (Moerman, 1988, p. 8). There was little in the final product and in the published version by way of direct observational data (see Forsey, 2007).


Forsey, M.G. (2010), "Chapter 4 Ethnography and the myth of participant observation", Hillyard, S. (Ed.) New Frontiers in Ethnography (Studies in Qualitative Methodology, Vol. 11), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 65-79.



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