PSYB01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 6: Naturalistic Observation, Stopwatch, General Social Survey

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20 Apr 2012
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Chapter 6: Observational Methods
Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches
- Qualitative research focuses on people behaving in natural settings and describing
their world in their own words
o Emphasizes collecting in-depth info of few individuals/limited settings
o Conclusions are based on investigators interpretations
- Quantitative research include larger samples
o Conclusions based on statistical analysis of data
- Ie. Teenagers and work [QN surveys > stats, QL focus groups > common themes]
- Info is qualitative if expressed in nonnumerical terms using language and images
Naturalistic Observation
- AKA field work or field observation
- The researcher makes observations in a particular natural setting over an extended
period of time, using a variety of techniques to collect information
o Roots in anthropology
- Sylvia’s research on practical thinking [milk truck drivers]
o findings that couldn’t have been found through formal models
- helps understand how people in a social or cultural setting live, work, and
experience the setting
Description and interpretation of Data
- goal is to provide a complete and accurate picture rather than to test a hypothesis
formed prior to the study
- detailed field notes at least once a day
- observing ppl/events, interviewing key informants, examining doc from the setting.
Usually involve audio and video-recording
- second goal is to analyze what is observed
o this leads to hypothesis that explain the data and make understand
- a good report wil support the analysis with multiple confirmations
o primarily contain qualitative data [richer/closer to phenomenon]
Issues with Naturalistic Observation
Participation and Concealment
o nonparticipant observer/participant observer [insider role]
o adv: can experience same events as natural participants
o dis: may lose objectivity necessary to conduct scientific observation
o also if person belongs to group that he is studied then observations will
most likely be biased and conclusions will lack objectivity
o concealed observation is less reactive than nonconcealed observation
o nonconcealed can be more ethical and ppl often get used to observer
‘American Love Story’ and ‘Real World’
o actuality there are degrees of participation/concealment
o researchers must carefully determine what their role in the setting will be
o informed consent is not usually necessary
Defining the Scope of the Observation
- researchers must often limit the scope of their observations to behaviours that are
relevant to the central issues of the study
Limits of Naturalistic Observation
- cannot be used to study all phenomenon
- best to study complex social settings both to understand the settings and to develop
theories based on the observation
- less useful to study well-defined hypothesis under precisely specified conditions
- field research is very difficult to do unlike lab research
- there is a ever changing pattern of events, researcher must record them all
- analysis is not simple
- negative case analysis: when an observation that does not fit the explanatory
structure devised by the researcher is found the researcher revises the hypothesis
and again examines all the data to make sure that they are consistent with the new
hypothesis [researcher may collect even more data]
Systematic Observation
- systematic observation: refers to the careful observation of one or more specific
behaviours in a particular settings [few beh, observations quantifiable, prior hypot]
- less global than naturalistic observation
- example: 3 year old kids interaction
- 1. beh of interest 2. choose setting in which beh will be observed 3. develop coding
Coding Systems
- coding system: a set of rules used to categorize observations
- simple as possible, especially when observing live behaviours
- Example: Nursing home
- can use coding systems already developed, Family Interaction Coding System
- adv: a body of research exists in which the system has been proven useful, training
Methodological Issues
Equipment: directly observing and recording at the same time using paper/pencil
- videotaping is becoming more common: permanent record of beh that can be coded
- stopwatch n clipboard, computer-based devices
Reactivity: one way mirrors, hidden camera reduce it, and allowing ppl to get used to observ
Reliability: very high levels of reliability in all published research using sys. observation
Sampling: samples of beh taken over a long period provide more accurate and useful data
than single short observations [tv watching: 15% no watching, watching rises till age 10]
Case Studies
- provides a description of an individuals behaviour and past history, may be in
settings like business, school
- naturalistic observation sometimes called a case study but not always the same
- psychobiography: a type of case study in which a researcher applies psychological
theory to explain the life of an individual, usually an historical figure
- usually conducted when a indivudal has a particularly rare, unusual condition
- example: man call ‘S’, amazing ability to recall information
- Genie, child kept in isolation in her room, never spoke till discovered at age 13
Archival Research
- involves using previously compiled information to answer research questions
Statistical Records
o collected by public/private organizations
o US Census Bureau maintains the most extensive set of stat records
o public records can be used as sources of archival data [cohabitation]
Survey Archives
o consists of data that are stored on comp
o General Social Survey, ICPSR
o becoming available online
o important because most researchers do not have the resources to conduct
surveys of random selected national samples
Written and Mass Communication Records
o written records diaries/letters preserved by historical societies, political
o mass communication books, magazines, movies, television programs
o useful in cross-cultural research to examine aspects of social structure that
differ form society to society
o Human Relations Area Files (HRAF) organizes anthropologists descriptions
of cultures, organized into categories
Content Analysis of Documents
o the systematic analysis of existing documents such as the ones described in
o requires coding systems to quantify info found in documents
- archival data are a valuable supplement to traditional methods of data collection
- problems: difficult to obtain, cannot be sure of accuracy of info collected by
someone else