The Sociological Detectives: Hiding in Plain Sight

In this third outing in the Research Methods series, the Sociological Detectives investigate Overt Participant Observation through a simple piece of hands-on research.

This PowerPoint Presentation – the 3rd in the Research Methods series (the others being The Research Process and Non-Participant Observation) – combines a hands-on approach to doing Overt Participant Observation with a classroom-based evaluation of the method.

Students take-on the role of Sociological Detectives which, in this instance, means they are set “a Task” to complete (it’s probably no great secret that this involves doing a simple bit of Overt Participant Observation) outside of class time.

Students can then use their (brief) experience of using the method to inform the evaluation work they then do inside the classroom.

While actually doing the Observation is not essential (the Task Options document that outlines some suggestions for how the Observation might be carried-out includes a simple Thought Experiment option for classrooms where, for whatever reason, students can’t physically carry-out this type of observational research) it does, I think, represent a useful teaching and learning device.

It is, in this respect, a relatively simple – and hopefully interesting – way for students to bring their personal experiences to bear on the more-theoretical aspects of sociological research.

The “Hiding in Plain Sight” PowerPoint Presentation comes in two forms:

1. An “online version” [link] where the student documents embedded in the Presentation require an active internet connection to download (even if the Presentation itself is being viewed offline).

2. An “offline version” where no internet connection is required. To use this version you will need to also download the following pdf files and store them in the same folder as the PowerPoint file. The name of this folder can be anything you like, but all the files must be together in the same folder, otherwise the Presentation will not be able to find them when a link is clicked.

Strengths and Weaknesses
Practical, Ethical, Theoretical Research Considerations
P.E.R.V.E.R.T. Protocol
Gang Leader For A Day
Task Options

To read these files students will need a pdf file viewer (such as the free Acrobat Reader).

Once you’ve downloaded the Presentation you might want take a few minutes to familiarise yourself with its basic mechanics. It deviates slightly from previous Presentations in that there is an initial “Task” your students need to complete and you might find the Teacher documentation embedded in the Presentation a useful preparatory read.

You can, of course, supplement any of the documents I’ve included – particularly material covering things like the strengths and weaknesses of Overt Participant Observation – with resources of your own.


I’ve now converted the Presentation to hmtl5 which means you can run the simulation without the need to faff around with PowerPoint. It also means that if you want to put the Presentation on your Learning Platform in a form that stops students looking at the underlying slides, you now can.

The online version should happily run on any device you like (mobile, tablet, desktop, microwave…), but I’d check that it does actually work on your favourite device, just in case.

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