PSYB01 Chapter 6 textbook notes

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Published on 13 Jun 2011
School
UTSC
Department
Psychology
Course
PSYB01H3
Professor
Chapter 6 – Observational Methods
The crux of nonexperimental research is that behaviour is observed or measured. There are many ways of
conducting nonexperimental research.
These approaches include: observing behaviour in natural settings, asking people to describe their
behaviour (self-reports), and examining existing records of behaviour, such as census data or hospital
records
Survey research will be covered in a different chapter
Quantitative and qualitative approaches
Observational methods can be broadly classified as primarily quantitative or qualitative.
Qualitative research focuses on people behaving in natural settings and describing their world in their
own words
Qualitative researchers emphasize collecting in-depth information on relatively few individuals or
within a very limited setting
The conclusions of qualitative research are based on interpretations drawn by the investigator
Quantitative research tends to focus on specific behaviours that can be easily quantified
Quantitative investigations generally include larger samples
Conclusions in quantitative research are based upon statistical analysis of data
Example: You’re interested in describing the ways in which the lives of teenagers are affected by
working
You could take a quantitative approach by giving them a questionnaire where you could ask things
like the number of hours they work, type of work, grades, stress levels, etc.
After collecting the data, you subject the numbers to statistical analysis
The findings would focus on things like the percentage of teenagers who work and the way this
percentage varies by age
You could also take a qualitative approach, whereby you conduct a series of focus groups where you
gather 8-10 teens and engage them in discussion about their perceptions and experiences with the
world of work; you would ask them to tell you about the topic using their own words and cognitive
frameworks
To record this, you could take a video-tape or audio-tape and record transcripts later, or you could
have someone take notes
A qualitative description of the findings would focus on the themes that emerge from discussions
and the manner in which the teenagers conceptualized the issues
Naturalistic observation
Naturalistic observation is also called field work or field observation
In a naturalistic observation study, the researcher makes observations in a particular natural setting (the
field) over an extended period of time, using a variety of techniques to collect information
The report includes these observations and the researchers interpretations of the findings
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This method is used when researchers want to describe and understand how people in a social or
cultural setting live, work, and experience the setting
Description and Interpretation of Data
Naturalistic observation demands the researchers immerse themselves in the situation so that they can
observe everything
The goal is to provide a complete and accurate picture rather than to test a hypotheses formed prior to
the study
Must keep detailed field reports – they must write or dictate on a regular basis (at least once per
day) everything that has happened
Field researchers use a variety of techniques to gather information:
Observing people and events
Interviewing keyinformants to provide inside information
Talking to people about their lives
Examining documents produced in the setting (ie. newspapers, letters, memos)
Use of audio- video-tape recordings
The researcher’s first goal is to describe the setting, events, and persons observed.
The second goal is to analyze what was observed. The researcher must interpret what occurred and
generate hypotheses that explain the data
The final report, while sensitive to the chronological order of events, is usually organized around the
structure developed by the researcher.
The data in naturalistic observation studies are primarily qualitative in nature; however, if circumstances
allow it, quantitative data can be also be gathered (ie. on income, family size, etc.)
Issues in naturalistic observation
Participation and Concealment:
Two related issues facing the researcher are whether to be a participant or non-participant in the social
setting, and whether to conceal their purposes from the people in the setting
A non-participant observer is one who does not become an active part of the setting
In contrast, a participant observer assumes and active, insider role. This allows the researcher to observe
the setting from the inside, and experience events the same way as the natural participants.
Friendships and other experiences may yield valuable data
But a potential problem arises too: the observer may lose objectivity
Concealed observation may be preferable because the presence of the observer may influence and alter
the behaviour of those being observed
Concealed observation is less reactive than non-concealed observation because people are not aware
that their behaviours are being observed and recorded
Non-concealed observation may be preferable from an ethical point of view, and people often become
used to the observe and act natural
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Document Summary

 the crux of nonexperimental research is that behaviour is observed or measured. There are many ways of conducting nonexperimental research.  these approaches include: observing behaviour in natural settings, asking people to describe their behaviour (self-reports), and examining existing records of behaviour, such as census data or hospital records.  survey research will be covered in a different chapter.  observational methods can be broadly classified as primarily quantitative or qualitative.  qualitative research focuses on people behaving in natural settings and describing their world in their own words.  qualitative researchers emphasize collecting in-depth information on relatively few individuals or within a very limited setting.  the conclusions of qualitative research are based on interpretations drawn by the investigator.  quantitative research tends to focus on specific behaviours that can be easily quantified.  conclusions in quantitative research are based upon statistical analysis of data.