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What are the characterisitcs of participant observation?

  1. Dual role. The reasearcher is both an observer of the on-going events and a participant.
  2. The researcher needs to be accepted as a group member by the people being studied e.g. family, school class, criminal gang. Focus is on Social Processes.
  3. The goal is through daily, intimate contact coupled with detailed recording to understand interaction. Personal involvement.
  4. Unstructured-collect any an all data which seems to be relevant. Primarly descriptive of the event being observed. 
  5. In psychology usually conducted by researchers who have an opportunity to investigae something unaccessible.


What are the strenghts of participant observation?

  1. Combines the emic demension (subjective participant perspective) with the etic dimension (objective observer perspective). 
  2. Provides very detailed and in-depht knowledge of a topic, which cannot be gained by other methods. 
  3. One of the best methods to avoid researcher bias because the researcher seek to understand how and why the social processes are the way they are, instead of imposing their own reality on hte phenomenon. 
  4. Provides a holisitic interpretation of a topic, becuase the researcher takes into account as many aspects as possible of that particular group of people, in order to synthesize observations into a whole. The researcher uses material from the participants themselves to generate "theory", and tries to explain one set of observations in terms of its relationship with others. 


What are the limitations of participant observation?

  1. Difficult to record data promptly and objectively.
  2. Time consuming and demanding – researcher must be physicaly present and live the life of the participants that she is studying. This, and data analysis takes time.
  3. Impossible to replicate. 
  4. Observer's behavour may influence the participants 
  5. Ethical problems of deception with undisclosed participants. 
  6. A delicate balance between involvement and detachment. Researcher may loose objectivity when they immerse themselves, and make an effort to see the world from the participant's perspective.
  7. Potential bias (avoided with reflexivity) 


What is a non-participant observation? 

  1. Researcher is not part of the group being studied. 
  2. Observes participants with or without their knowledge. 
  3. Researcher does not takee an acitve part in the situation.
  4. It's argued that people who are observed do not behave naturally. This is called Reactivity, and it is assumed that reactivity will invalidate the data. 


What is a naturalistic observation? 

  1. Observations takes place in the participants' natural environment, and that the researchers avoid interfering with the behaviour they are observing. 
  2. Natural setting- parks, market, squares.
  3. Natural event- a car accident, a fire 
  4. Natural behaviour- a usual or expected behaviour for the given environment e.g. number of types of play in children's playgrounds


What are the strengths of a naturalistic observation?

  1. High ecological validity- realism of the observed 
  2. Used to generate ideas to validate finding for experimental studies 
  3. Sometimes the only ethical or practical method – research on people with Alzheimer's


What are the limitations of a naturalistic observation?

  1. cannot infer cause and effect- variables are only observed not manipulated
  2. Lack of control over conditions which makes replication more difficult 
  3. If a researcher collects data there may be problems in checking the data. Having multiple observers could make this better (inter-observer reliability)
  4. Ethics- invasion of privacy, deception 
  5. Reactivity- being observed may change people's behaviour 



Describe the use of a overt observation


The participants are fully aware that they are being observed

+ informed consent

+ the researcher participates

- participant reactivity

- accuracy recording



what is an unstructured observation?

> records all relevant behaviour decided at the time of observing

> description of behaviour

> no checklist

- poor observer reability

- studied behaviour is unpredictable




what is a structured observation?

> records specific predetermined features

> permits to test a hypothesis

> a checklist/protocol

+ good observer reability

+ behaviour easily predicted


What is a laboratory (controlled) observation? 

  1. Controlled observation involves the recording of spontaneously occuring behaviour but under conditions contrived by the research (in the lab) 

For example, sleep studies- lab equipmen is needed to record eye movements and changes in brain activity in participants naturally falling asleep. Parent-child interaction- observed through two-way mirrors.



Describe the use of an covert observation


participants are not aware that they are being studied

+ access to unique data

 - Deception of the participant



What are the strenght of non-participant observations? 

  1. More control over the environment which leads to more accurate observation. 
  2. Great control leads to easier replication.
  3. Usually avoids ethical problems of consent, unless research purpose and observer are hidden. 


What are the limitations of non-participant observation?

  1. Participant reactivity may distort the data if participant is aware of being observed e.g. effects of alcohol in a lab. 
  2. Lower ecological validity then naturalist observations, can cause deman characteristics.
  3. Cause and effect cannot be inferred.
  4. Recording alone-low reliabilty. Inter-observer 
  5. Ethics-Violation of privacy


what is meant by an observation?


  • observing a naturally and freely occuring behaviour
  • Destinctions are made between observation as a technique and as an overall research design
  • No cause and effect if it's a research design. No IV is manipulated



How to increase trustworthiness?

  1. Inter-observer or inter-rater, Avoids observer bias. Each persons view is unique and that our perception is affecte by innumerable facts.
  2. Trained observer vs. novice. 
  3. A standardised coding system in advance
  4. Operationalise the variable-clearly defining the rating system in advance.


The analysation of data (3 steps)

  1. Step 1: Description analysis. "Thick description" provides rich data. Prove a complete description of the Phenomenon of interest. The context of the action. The intentions of the actor. The Process in which the action is embedded. 
  2. Step 2: Coding an connecting themes. Organise into categories as know WHAT to analyse. Classification consists through reading and rereading interactively with the data. Ask: who, what, when, where and why? Graphical represntations of the categories and their connections. Write a summary of analysis, use an independent reader. Memos. Once classified into themes, look for High-order themes (main-themes), sub-themes. Look for support of data. Use other methods-reliability.
  3. Step 3: Producing an account. Nominal data, categories, frequency, chi-squared, inferential statistics. Correlation-no cause and effect. Coherent explanation of theoretical framework to understand the phenomena. It is grounded and based on the categories identified during the observation. May consult the participants for support in the write up. The reader must be able to track/follow and verify the procedure and how the conclusions were reached. Difficult to generalise



Which methods can you use to do a raw data recording?

1. Visual pictures -moving or still

+ accuracy and later lesiure analysis

- participant reaction and unnatural behaviour due to intimidation

- ethics, socially sensetive, identity

2. Audio -tape recoring of spoken observation as behaviour occurs

+ accuracy and later leisure analysis

-omits important gestures and non-verbal communication accompaning speech

3. Written notes -codings, ratings made on the spot

+less intimidating than more technical methods

- data may be missed or subjectively recorded