James Patrick
A Glasgow Gang Observed

"James Patrick" is a pseudonym. In the late 1950s this young sociologist obtained entry into a Maryhill area Glaswegian gang for four months, joining in twelve times (arguably short periods of time for participant observation).
He found a gang member called Tim in an approved school, and Tim got him into the gang. Given his privileged position and knowledge Tim also protected the researcher. Not unlike Doc in William Foote Whyte's Street Corner Society, Tim in Glasgow was especially important because one gang member became suspicious and stated this to others when James Patrick did not want to carry a weapon and could give no other impression than holding back from fights. Tim would then come in on his side. Nevertheless the researcher did not write his fieldnotes until after the research.
James Patrick left Glasgow quickly when the violence became too unacceptable for him and he felt threatened. By memory after the events he reproduced rich data on the speech and ways of the gang although the research itself was presented in a neutral and academic style. He was afraid of the gang and waited years before publishing; this was also to protect their identities. It was published in 1973: Patrick, J. (1973), A Glasgow Gang Observed, London: Methuen.
The findings relate to social conditions that lead to such a gang forming and becoming so intense in their behaviour, and that a core activity of the group was to put themselves into conflict situations where they may well have to fight but where actual fighting often did not happen. The Glasgow gang was found to be equivalent in behaviour and custom to the experience of gangs in the United States.

Questions for discussion

Why might a researcher of such as teenage gangs in Glasgow not reveal his real name?
If a researcher keeps covert secrecy, does s/he become obliged to fully take part in the activity? What are the ethical dilemmas?
Letting time pass before publishing assists others' anonymity and risk to oneself. Should a researcher protect those researched?
Participant observation is inconvenient and demanding. High status groups can exclude outsiders; low status groups become suspicious. How can such research go wrong?