In Stebbins's article, Fitting In, it is noted that a 'participant-as-observer' is treated differently from a newcomer by the group, in that researcher is expected to add value and provide insight to the group being observed. Successful 'fitting in' is achieved when the observer can gain acceptance from the group, yet "remain sufficiently removed from the setting to be able to analyze it objectively." The author then compares the difference between a group member and non-group member pursuing the same goal; with one having easy entry, but compromising objectivity, and the other, benefiting from the objectivity distance provides, but perhaps sacrificing a true understanding of the group’s inner workings.
The article goes on to note that non-members must meet minimum entry requirements. The example of the Canadian male studying football was used. This researcher would be expected to know about the various Canadian teams and also the nature of the Grey Cup. The author notes that to establish rapport, the researcher must " have enough knowledge about the setting or persons [being studied] to appear competent."This calls attention to the fine line certain ethnographers must tread. They must possess enough humility to convince those being observed that they come in peace, but also enough knowledge to appear competent, and while there needs to be sufficient interest and enthusiasm to engage, the objectivity gained from maintaining a professional distance must be guarded.
Stebbins, R.A. (1987). Fitting in: The researcher as learner and participant. Quality and Quantity, 21(1), 103-108.