Presentation on theme: "Collecting Primary Data: Observations. Objectives By the end of this session you will be able to: Describe some of the advantages and disadvantages of."— Presentation transcript:
Objectives By the end of this session you will be able to: Describe some of the advantages and disadvantages of the observational approach. Select an observational approach appropriate to a given research objective. Analyse and interpret observational data. Produce observational data that are valid and reliable. Use observational methods in an ethical manner.
Observation Triangulate with other data gathering methods. Getting to understand participants’ symbolic world. Observing what participants are unwilling to reveal. Observing the difference between what participants say or think they do, and what they actually DO.
How do we ‘observe’? Sensory INPUTS Sight Sound Smell Touch Taste Interpretations OUTPUTS Schemas/concepts
Observation roles Overt observation Covert observation Non-participant observation Participant observation Announced participant Undercover participant Announced observer Undercover observer
Merits of participant observation Participant observation is of value in that it: Is effective at observing non-verbal behaviour. Is immediate in the sense that it elicits data on events as they happen. Allows for a more natural relationship to develop over time between the researcher and respondent.
Challenges of participant observation Insider v. outsider status – confusion. ‘Going native’ – bias. Being ‘outed’ – respondent anger. Collecting the data – how/when?
The process of observation Getting in. Informed consent. Becoming invisible. Building rapport. Handling identity. Observing and learning. Tracking. Developing relationships. Eavesdropping. Asking questions. Locating ‘stars’. Getting out.
Gathering data: field notes Date, time, place. Physical appearance of inhabitants. Physical appearance of setting (layout, artefacts). Observation of activities being undertaken (including sequence of events). Observation of non-verbal behaviours (body language). Tone of conversations (polite, formal, angry, etc.) Key quotations. Personal views, reflections and emotions.
Expanding and analysing field notes Primary observation: chronological log. Raw data (i.e., no explanations or analysis) of observations on people, their surroundings, behaviours and conversations. Reflection and recall during the process of writing up field notes. Pre-analysis of data: ideas and inferences. Experiential data: impressions and personal feelings about events, people, conversations and interpretations of own emotional reactions.
Structured observation More quantitative than the use of field notes. Advantages include: It should result in more reliable data because the results can be replicated either by the same researcher at a different time, or by other researchers. It allows data to be collected at the time they occur and does not have to rely on the recall of participants or their interpretation of events. It collects data that participants themselves may not realize are important.
Alternative ways of coding an event Event123 I I II I I Event221311123 Elapsed time (mins) 051015202530 Event123 2 211 221 (a) Simple checklist (c) Sequence record on timescale (b) Sequence record
Enhancing validity Select cases/settings on the basis of their potential for being representative of the population. Study cases in one field that are similar to cases in another. Stay in the field long enough to observe or experience the full range of routines and behaviours that typify the case.
Enhancing reliability Record observed events so that the data can be reviewed and, if necessary, re-interpreted by another researcher. Keep very comprehensive notes, as some details that appeared hardly relevant at the time of the observation may later prove to be crucial. Use structure in the data gathering process (e.g., coding events). Triangulation – multiple methods of data collection.
Writing up observational data Accounts could include: The context of the study (physical setting, history, etc.). The number of participants. The activities taking place. The division of labour and hierarchies. Significant events. Members’ perspectives and meanings. Social rules and basic patterns of order.
Summary Observation is more than just ‘seeing’; it also involves complex combinations of all the senses and the interpretation of observed events. Observation can be overt or covert and involve the active participation of the observer or non-participation. One of the challenges of the observational approach is the gathering of data, particularly if the observer is a covert participant. Field notes should be as comprehensive as possible and should be taken either as events are observed or as soon as possible afterwards. Observational methods will often be triangulated with other research approaches, such as interviews and questionnaires. For structured observation, coding schedules will be used based on the principle of either noting events over a period of time or noting when an event occurs. Ethical issues arise, particularly where covert observation is being used. Researchers may do well to make use of a code of ethics drawn up by the relevant professional body, if such a code exists.