In participant observation, the researcher intervenes in the environment. Most commonly, this refers to inserting himself/herself as a member of a group, aimed at observing behavior that otherwise would not be accessible. Also, behaviors remain relatively natural, thereby giving the measurements high external validity. Case Studies are a type of observational research that involve a thorough descriptive analysis of a single individual, group, or event. They can be designed along the lines of both nonparticipant and participant observation. Both approaches create new data, while archival research involves the analysis of data that already exist. A hypothesis is generated and then tested by analyzing data that have already been collected. This is a useful approach when one has access to large amounts of information collected over long periods of time. Such databases are available, for example, in longitudinal research that collects information from the same individuals over many years.
Special qualitative analysis software tools like help the researcher to catalog, penetrate and analyze the data generated (or, in archival research found) in a given research project. All forms of observational or field research benefit extensively from the special capabilities of a dedicated data anlaysis tool like .
The goal of participant observation is to gain a deep understanding and familiarity with a certain group of individuals, their values, beliefs, and way of life. Often the group in focus is a subculture of a greater society, like a religious, occupational, or particular community group. To conduct participant observation, the researcher often lives within the group, becomes a part of it, and lives as a group member for an extended period of time, allowing them access to the intimate details and goings on of the group and their community.