Question 1: For an early participant observation study, a group of researchers joined a religious cult whose members believed the end of the world was imminent and who were preparing for this catastrophe to make sure they all survived as the ‘chosen ones’. The researchers found it very difficult not to influence the group – by appearing to join in the group’s beliefs, they made the beliefs stronger, but they could not remain in the group and deny these beliefs.

a) Explain why this was a problem.

b) Is it possible to be a member of a group and not affect the other members at all?

Question 2: If a researcher discovers during his or her study that offenders – or indeed the police – are committing illegal acts, should they inform the authorities, or should they condone law-breaking and become an accessory?

Question 3: Covert researchers often have to write records of events in secret. One team used the bathroom in relays to make notes; another researcher reported how tired he was late at night making copious notes about the events of the day. Why does this present a particular problem for the validity of the research?

Question 4: Many sociological researchers have studied deviant or deprived groups, but very few have managed to study high-status groups, such as big businessmen or politicians. Why do you think this is so?