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Observational Field Research

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Technological advances--cameras and microphones--make it possible to gather a ... Yet the information is used to make decisions that impact him/her. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Observational Field Research


1
Observational Field Research
2
Advantages and Role of Observations
  • Records actual behavior, not what people say they
    said they did or believe they will say/do.
  • Recorded behavior can be compared to their
    statements, to check for the validity of their
    responses.

3
Limitations
  • Observation techniques do not provide insights
    into what the person may be thinking, why they
    performed a behavior, or what might motivate a
    given behavior/comment.
  • That type of information can only be obtained by
    asking people directly or indirectly.

4
Ethical Considerations
  • When people are being observed, whether they are
    aware of it or not, ethical issues arise
  • Technological advances--cameras and
    microphones--make it possible to gather a
    significant amount of information about verbal
    and non-verbal behavior of customers as well as
    employees that might easily be considered to be
    an invasion of privacy or abusive, particularly
    if the subject is unaware of being observed
  • Yet the information is used to make decisions
    that impact him/her.

5
Should you Collect Your Data by Observation?
  • Questions to consider
  • Is the topic sensitive?
  • Can you observe the Phenomena?
  • Do you have a lot of time?
  • Are you sure what you are looking for?

6
Types of Observations
  • Observation is a primary method of collecting
    data by human, mechanical, electrical or
    electronic means.
  • The researcher may or may not have direct contact
    or communication with the people whose behavior
    is being recorded. Observation techniques can be
    part of qualitative research as well as
    quantitative research techniques.

7
Six Different Ways Of Classifying Observation
Methods
  1. Participant and Nonparticipant observation,
  2. Obtrusive and Unobtrusive (including physical
    trace observation),
  3. Observation in natural vs. contrived settings,
  4. Disguised and non-disguised observation,
  5. Structured and unstructured observation, and
  6. Direct and indirect observation.

8
Two Commonly Used Methods Of Direct Observations
  1. Continuous Monitoring
  2. Time Allocation

9
Continuous Monitoring
  • Continuous monitoring (CM) involves observing a
    and recording (either manually, electronically,
    or both) as much of their behavior as possible.
  • This may be problematic due to the Hawthorne
    Effect, which showed that people react to the
    attention they are getting from the researchers
    and their behavior changes.

10
Two Major Techniques Of Continuous Monitoring
  • Focal subject sampling
  • Sequence sampling

11
Focal Subject Sampling
  • Used to study specific behavior patterns.
  • Observe a single individual, for a specified
    time, recording all instances of the behavior
    under study.
  • Generates data on frequency of behaviors used to
    compare between single subjects (or groups of
    individuals) for instance males vs. females,
    kayakers vs. rafters, etc..
  • Qualitative observations are summed to produce an
    "ethogram a description and inventory (usually
    with some information on relative frequency or
    sequence of expression) of all (or at least most)
    of the behavior patterns exhibited by a subject
    group.
  • The production of an ethogram requires
    considerable effort and numerous observation
    periods throughout the life cycle of the subject.

12
Sequence Sampling
  • Similar to focal subject sampling, in that a
    specific individual is observed.
  • Focus is on a chain or sequence of specific
    behaviors that are generally exhibited in a
    particular sequence.
  • However, the observation period is not arbitrary,
    but begins when the observer thinks the
    behavioral sequence begins, and ends when the
    observer thinks it ends.
  • Some potential for subjectivity and bias.
  • Careful and well-trained observers can usually
    recognize changes ("events") in the behavior of
    subjects, and use these as starting and ending
    points for an observation period. Videography can
    be helpful.
  • The result is a description of the sequence of
    behaviors that are expressed in some type of
    activity or interaction.

13
Time Allocation
  • Randomly selecting a place and time and then
    recording what people are doing when they are
    first seen and before they see you.
  • Useful when you want to find out the percent of
    time people are doing things (i.e., playing with
    kids, working, eating, etc.).
  • There are several sampling problems with this
    approach.
  • A large representative sample is needed to
    generalize about how people spend their time.
  • Questions such as when, how often, and where to
    observe are problematic.
  • Many overcome these by visits to nonrandom
    locations, at random times, and/or using scan
    sampling or instantaneous sampling.

14
2 Types of Time Allocation
  • Scan Sampling
  • Instantaneous Sampling

15
Scan Sampling
  • A census of a large number of individuals
    leading to records of behavior at the instant
    they are observed.
  • Because scan sampling must be done relatively
    quickly (otherwise it reverts to focal subject
    sampling with short but variable sampling
    periods), it is usually restricted to broad
    categories of behavior such as "feeding",
    "reading", or "resting".
  • Scan sampling is vital for estimates of time
    budgets what individuals in the group are doing
    at any given time.
  • If 100 individuals are observed , and 70 are
    resting, 25 are feeding, and 5 are interacting
    aggressively, the assumption is that any given
    individual spends 70 of its time resting, 25
    feeding, and 5 interacting aggressively at that
    time of day and/or in that place.

16
Instantaneous Sampling
  • One individual is observed repeatedly, but
    behaviors are recorded at specified intervals.
  • The specific behavior at the instant of
    observation is recorded (hence the name
    "instantaneous sampling").
  • For instance, one might observe a bird watcher at
    30 second intervals. At one instant, the bird
    watcher might be searching for birds, at another,
    looking up a bird book, at another, walking
    rapidly along a trail.
  • The result of this type of observation is a
    time/activity budget, which is derived from the
    proportion of instantaneous observations in which
    an individual is engaged in various activities.
  • Preferably, several individuals of the same
    subject group would be observed, to get average
    proportions of time spent on different
    activities.

17
Direct Observation
Continuous
Time Allocation
Focal Subject
Sequence
Scan
Instantaneous
18
Know How You Are Going To Interpret Your
Observations
  • DescriptiveRequires no inference making.You see
    something and write it down.
  • InferentialRequires making inferences about the
    emotion/motives underlying what is observed. For
    example, you may observe Tara pounding her
    keyboard. From this you assume (correctly) that
    she is frustrated with yet another computer.
  • EvaluativeRequires making an inference and a
    judgment from the observed behavior. For example,
    you may wonder whether computers and humans have
    a positive relationship. "Positive" is an
    evaluative judgment. You observe Tara banging on
    her keyboard and conclude that humans and
    computers do not have a positive relationship.

19
Field Notes
  • When writing field notes you should include
    descriptive as well as inferential data. It is
    important to describe the setting and the mood in
    a detailed manner. All such things that may
    change behavior need to be noted. Especially
    reflect upon your presence. Do you think that you
    changed the behavior noticeably?

20
Recording Data
  • Recording data on blank sheets is not
    recommended!
  • Create data recording forms and, when possible,
    use simple codes to record data quickly.
  • Agree on what to observe and record as a team,
    practice, debrief, and refine. Practice again.

21
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