SOCB05 – Lecture 12 – August 1 2013
Unobtrusive Methods and Evaluation Research
What are unobtrusive methods?
The researcher does not disturb or effect the social environment or peoples
social behaviour in which they are studying.
Unobtrusive methods include:
o Written or audio-visual records. Movies, songs, etc.
o Material culture (physical objects, settings and traces)
o Simple observations
o Hardware techniques
Does not include:
o Interviews, questionnaires
o Manipulative experiments
o Studying actual behaviour rather than reported behaviour. There is no
doubt about the reality of the events.
o High reliability
o Non-disruptive and non-reactive
Can be found online or in libraries.
o Longitudinal data source
o Distortion of original record
o Could be other variables that you cannot see
Unobtrusive Research Methods
Analysing Existing Statistics
o Examination of previously conducted statistical analysis – secondary
o Researcher uses both information and statistical inferences carried out
by someone else
o Sometimes you don’t get exactly what you wanted to study – validity
o Supplemental source of data in both quantitative and qualitative
o The stats usually comes from government offices
o Problems of validity
Statistics may not measure exacty what we want them to or
what they say they do
o Problems of reliability
Depends on the quality of the research
Problems of change in data collection
Problems of record keeping Physical Trace Measures
o The remnants, fragments and products of people (or animals) past
o Most often obtained indirectly
o Three types:
Actual Physical Traces
Evidence that remains from the use or the non-use of an
Example: If someone studied UofT garbage/recycling
patterns they would notice that there aren’t any normal
plastic water bottles here anymore.
Constructions or artefacts that represent behaviour
Animal or human behaviour
Erosion or wear
o Ethical Concerns
Still needs approval from ethics boards.
Can be seen as deception
o Study of recorded human communications
o “A systematic analysis of the content rather than the structure of a
communication, such as a written work, speech, or film. Including the
study of thematic and symbolic elements to determine the objective or
meaning of the communication”
o Major purpose is to identify patterns and themes within artefacts
o 4 Steps:
Have to decide what to observe. What are we going to look at?
Need to operationalize variables and conceptionalize. Because
you need to know what your variables are if you are going to
look for them.
What is your unit of analysis/observation?
Select the population to be sampled from and design your
Make use of any conventional sampling technique: random,
Sub-sampling (cluster sampling) is often used.
o Coding Transforming raw data into a standardized form
Manifest Coding: Coding the visible, surface content of a
Example: Counting the number of times words such as
love, kiss and hug appear in movies to determine how
romantic they are.
Reliability: Sometimes things may mean different
things to dif