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A central principle and method in scientific enquiry. Rigorous observation is fundamental to systematic experimental work in laboratory sciences. In the sociocultural study of sport, observation is essential for the understanding of smaller-scale human collectivities such as sport subcultures and for capturing the minutiae of sporting practices in everyday life. Observational fieldwork strategies are critical to the credibility of much qualitative social science. Does the researcher want to be the proverbial ‘fly on the wall’ unbeknown to those being observed, or be introduced to the group and accept that this known presence might alter the behaviour and activities of the members of the group? Carefully employed, observation is also valuable for the generation of accounts of events. The observational ‘I saw it, I was there’ criterion is a central one identified by John Carey as defining top reportage (The Faber Book of Reportage, 1987). In a time of increasing control of knowledge and information by a professional public relations industry, observation is a threatened quality of the sport media professional. See also covert observation; hawthorne effect; participant observation.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics — Sport and Leisure.

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