Participant observation approach to study refugees’ information practices

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingConference contributionScientific


Scholarly studies of refugees and other vulnerable population carry special ethical concerns (Smith, 2009). This abstract is about the participant observa-tion approach, which was used in a study exploring the information practices of women refugees in Sweden.The abstract highlights the methodology and its difficulties in research with refugee women. An ethnographic approach of participant observation and semi-structured interviews were conducted with 18 refugee women from different Arab countries (i.e. Iraq, Palestine, Syria) in the study. This abstract specifically introduces how participant observation method was used to collect the data in refugees’ field. Ethnography is a data collection approach to get a holistic view of cultural experience of a person living within that culture and participant observation is a tool in the kit of ethnography (Kawulich, 2005). Participant observation is a primary method to get to know the field and this process enables a researcher to learn about the activities of the people under study in a natural setting through observing and participating in those activities (Kawulich, 2005). Participant observation helps to understand the ‘backstage culture’ and allows for richly detailed descriptions of situations and events (Lopez-Dicastillo and Belintxon, 2014). However, there are limitations with this approach such as, relying on the informants’ views rather than the public views and researcher’s individual interest in a setting rather than being repre-sentative of what actually happens in a culture (Uldam and McCurdy, 2013). Moreover, there are many challenges associated with this approach such as, the role of researcher as an outsider or insider, ethical issues of privacy, getting complete informed consent, trust, access and subjectivity (Li, 2008).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInformation Research Days
PublisherInformaatiotutkimuksen yhdistys - ITY ry
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 28 Oct 2020
MoE publication typeB3 Non-refereed article in conference proceedings
EventInformaatiotutkimuksen päivät - Uleåborgs universitet, Uleåborg, Finland
Duration: 5 Nov 20206 Nov 2020

Publication series

ISSN (Print)1797-9137


SeminarInformaatiotutkimuksen päivät
Abbreviated titleI-päivät


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