CHAPTER 6 OBSERVERVING BEHAVIOUR
Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches.
- Observational methods can be classified either as quantitative or qualitative.
- Qualitative research focuses on people behaving in natural settings and describing
their world in their own words. Qualitative researchers generally collect in depth
information on relatively small samples. Quantitative research based upon
statistical analysis of data
- Quantitative research tends to focus on specific behaviours that can be easily
quantified. Quantitative investigations generally include large samples. Qualitative
conclusions are based on interpretations drawn by investigator.
- Example: one is interested in describing the ways teenagers think. Quantitative
approach would be to develop a questionnaire and to assign numbers to the answers
and to perform a quantitative statistical analysis. Qualitative approach: one may
conduct a series of focus groups in which you gather together groups of 8-10
teenagers and engage them in a discussion about their perceptions with the world of
work. A qualitative description of the findings would focus on the themes that
emerge from the discussions and the manner in which the teenagers viewed the
- Both approaches are valuable and provide us with different ways of understanding
- Sometimes called a field work or simply field observation. In a naturalistic
observation study the researcher makes observations, is a study in which a
researcher makes observations in a particular natural setting over an extended
period of time using a variety of techniques to collect information.
- This approach is used in anthropology and the study of animal behaviour and is
currently widely used in the social sciences to study many phenomena in all types
- A researcher uses naturalistic observation when he or she wants to describe and
understand how people in a social or cultural setting live, work and experience the
setting. Example: if u want to know about bars as a social setting, you need to visit
one or more bars over an extended period of time to talk to people observe
interactions and become accepted as a regular.
Description and interpretation of Data - Naturalistic observation demands that researchers immerse themselves in the
situation. The researchers observer everything – the setting, the patterns of personal
relationships and so on.
- Goal is to provide a complete and accurate picture rather than to test hypotheses
formed prior to the study. To do this the field researcher must have detailed field
notes, where they write everything that happened.
- Field researchers employ many methods such as, observing people and events,
interviewing, talking to people about their lives, and examining documents
produced in the settings. Also use audio video recordings.
- The researcher’s first goal is to describe the setting, events and persons observed.
Then they analyze what they observed. The final report is usually organized around
the structure developed by the researcher.
- A good observation report will support the analysis by using multiple confirmations
- Data in naturalistic observation studies are mostly qualitative in nature as they are
more of descriptions of the observations themselves rather than quantitative
Issues in naturalistic observation
Participation and concealment: issue of whether the researcher chooses to be a
participant or non participant in the social setting and whether to conceal his or her
purposes from the other people in the setting. A nonparticipant observer is an outsider
who does not become an active part of the setting and participant behaviour assumes an
active insider role. A potential problem with participant observation is that observer
may lose the objectivity necessary to conduct scientific observation. Concealed
observation is less reactive than no concealed observation because people are not aware
that their behaviours are being observed and recorded. Non participant observers are
also not concealed when they gain permission to hang out in a setting or use interview
techniques to gather information.
Defining the scope of the observation: a researcher employing naturalistic observation
may want to study everything about a setting. And since this is not possible the
researchers often limit the scope of their observations to behaviours that are relevant to
the issues of study. For example a researcher instated in settings such as car dealership,
they might only focus on sales techniques and ignore things like management practises.
Limits of naturalistic observation: cannot be used in all situations. Approach mainly
useful when investigating complex social settings. Field research can also be very
difficult because the data collection cannot always be scheduled at a convenient time
and place. It is very time consuming, placing a field researcher in an unfamiliar setting
for extended periods. There is an ever changing pattern of events, some important and some unimportant, the researcher must record them all and remain flexible in order to
adjust to them as research progresses. Process of analysis that follows the completion
of research is also not simple. Researcher repeatedly sort through the data to develop
the hypothesis to explain the data. If some of the observations are not consistent the
researcher does more analysis. Negative case analysis which is an observation that does
not fit the explanatory structure given by the researcher. When a researcher finds one
he or she revises the hypothesis and examines all the data to make sure it’s c