In Sociological Research, Do the Ends Justify the Means?
Another particularly risky study was undertaken by Laud Humphrey's "Tearoom Trade" (1975) whereby he not only subjected himself to personal danger and compromise, (arrested several times), he also ran the risk of breaching ethical standards by violating the participants rights to privacy. This high-risk method of research is inevitably employed into studies of criminal or sensitive issues. Other criticisms of covert participant observation include the size of sample being to small to allow any generalisations to be made on the basis of the findings and also the difficulty of validating the information. The findings are usually limited to the observational interpretative skills of the researcher. W.F Whyte (1955) in his study of "Street Corner Society" admitted "to some extent my approach must be unique to myself, to the particular situation, and to the state of knowledge existing when I began research." Sometimes in these situations, it may be difficult to accept the results as reflecting anything more than a personal perspective.…
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