What's observation goodfor? The observer is often a romantic figure in sociology. You will probably have come across the work of researchers whose studies lead them into exotic underworlds of drugtaking, delinquency or madness (eg Young 1971, Patrick 1973, Goffman 1968b). You may have an impression of the observer as an undercover agent, even a voyeur, a loner who is not afraid of the seedy, the dangerous and the unknown. By contrast other methods - analysing official documents or standing in the rain with a clipboard - may seem tame and less glamorous.