1. Empathy (understanding that comes from putting yourself in another person’s place).
  2. It allows the sociologist to start with an open mind rather than with a fixed hypothesis or questions. As new situations are encountered new explanations can be formulated and followed up there and then.
  3. Re-entering one’s normal world can be difficult; loyalty may prevent the researcher from disclosing what they have learnt in case this harms the group.
  4. It avoids ethical problems of deception and of having to join in illegal activities. It allows the observer to use interviews, ask naïve but important questions and take notes openly.
  5. (a) The group studied is usually small and the sample often selected haphazardly. (b) It is a unique method where much depends on the personal characteristics of the individual researcher, making it difficult for others to replicate; it produces qualitative data, making comparisons with other studies difficult.
  6. We can see for ourselves what people actually do, rather than what they say they do; we can experience their way of life first hand and so gain a true insight.