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❶Being attentive for any length of time is difficult to do. Participant observation is a beginning step in ethnographic studies.

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Naturalistic Observation
What is Observational Research?
Controlled Observation

This means it is easy to test for reliability. The data obtained from structured observations is easier and quicker to analyze as it is quantitative i. Controlled observations are fairly quick to conduct which means that many observations can take place within a short amount of time. This means a large sample can be obtained resulting in the findings being representative and having the ability to be generalized to a large population..

When participants know they are being watched they may act differently. The researcher simply records what they see in whatever way they can. With regard to human subjects Margaret Mead used this method to research the way of life of different tribes living on islands in the South Pacific.

Kathy Sylva used it to study children at play by observing their behavior in a playgroup in Oxfordshire. Like case studies naturalistic observation is often used to generate new ideas. Because it gives the researcher the opportunity to study the total situation it often suggests avenues of enquiry not thought of before. These observations are often conducted on a micro small scale and may lack a representative sample biased in relation to age, gender, social class or ethnicity.

This may result in the findings lacking the ability to be generalized to wider society. Natural observations are less reliable as other variables cannot be controlled. This makes it difficult for another researcher to repeat the study in exactly the same way.

A further disadvantage is that the researcher needs to be trained to be able to recognise aspects of a situation that are psychologically significant and worth further attention. With observations we do not have manipulations of variables or control over extraneous variables which means cause and effect relationships cannot be established. Participant observation is a variant of the above natural observations but here the researcher joins in and becomes part of the group they are studying to get a deeper insight into their lives.

If it were research on animals we would now not only be studying them in their natural habitat but be living alongside them as well! This approach was used by Leon Festinger in a famous study into a religious cult who believed that the end of the world was about to occur.

He joined the cult and studied how they reacted when the prophecy did not come true. The researcher takes a false identity and role, usually posing as a genuine member of the group.

Observational research or field research is a type of correlational i. There are a variety of types of observational research, each of which has both strengths and weaknesses.

These types are organized below by the extent to which an experimenter intrudes upon or controls the environment. Observational research is particularly prevalent in the social sciences and in marketing. It is a social research technique that involves the direct observation of phenomena in their natural setting.

This differentiates it from experimental research in which a quasi-artificial environment is created to control for spurious factors, and where at least one of the variables is manipulated as part of the experiment.

Cases studies and archival research are special types of observational research. Naturalistic or nonparticipant observation has no intervention by a researcher. Some of these reasons include:. Non-participant observation involving the use of recording devices might be a good choice.

Even a great observer cannot record these aspects in detail. Choosing to tape-record of video-record a setting will depend in large part on what is permissable in that setting. There are, however, a few things to keep in mind:. Participant observers may use multiple methods to gather data. One primary approach involves writing fieldnotes. There are several guides for learning how to prepare fieldnotes. Immersion and prolonged involvement in a setting can lead to the development of rapport and foster free and open speaking with members.

Observation is an essential part of gaining an understanding of naturalistic settings and its members' ways of seeing. Adler, PA and Adler, P. Membership roles in field research. Handbook of Qualitative Research pp. Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology. Doing Qualitative Research 2nd Edition.


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Observation, as the name implies, is a way of collecting data through observing. Observation can be structured or unstructured. In structured or.

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Observation (watching what people do) would seem to be an obvious method of carrying out research in psychology. However, there are different types of observational methods and distinctions need to be made between:Author: Saul Mcleod.

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Observational research is particularly prevalent in the social sciences and in marketing. It is a social research technique that involves the direct observation of phenomena in their natural setting. This differentiates it from experimental research in which a quasi-artificial environment is created to control for spurious factors, and where at. For a more developed discussion of the distinction between observation and participant observation see Savage () and for a discussion of participant observation as a methodology see Jorgensen ().

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In the current research environment, its status seems to have changed, leading Adler and Adler to question whether observation is a research method “in its own right” or “a stepchild to its more widely recognized. Observation, particularly participant observation, has been used in a variety of disciplines as a tool for collecting data about people, processes, and cultures in qualitative research. This paper provides a look at various definitions of participant observation, the history of its use, the purposes for which it is used, the stances of the.