OBSERVATION
© LOUIS COHEN, LAWRENCE
MANION & KEITH MORRISON
STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER
• Structured observation
• The need to practise structured observation
• Analyzing data from stru...
OBSERVATIONS ARE . . .
• Looking (often systematically)
• Noting systematically people, events,
behaviours, settings, arti...
ROLE OF OBSERVER
• Complete participant
• Participant as observer
• Observer as participant
• Complete observer
Complete p...
CONTINUA OF OBSERVATION
Prespecified/pre-ordinate Responsive
Quantitative Qualitative
Time bound Open-ended
Short-term Lon...
OBSERVERS MUST CONSIDER . . .
• The focus of the observation(s)
• Why they are observing
• The research questions that the...
OBSERVERS MUST CONSIDER . . .
• How systematic, structured, descriptive to be
• The ‘unit’ of observation (e.g. a teacher,...
OBSERVERS MUST CONSIDER . . .
• How the observation may be affected by the
sex, sexuality, ethnicity, class, appearance,
a...
STRUCTURED OBSERVATION
• Systematic
• Enables the researcher to generate numerical
data from the observations
• Non-partic...
STRUCTURED OBSERVATION
• Observation categories are discrete: no
overlap
• Timed
• The researcher will need to practise
co...
Student to Student / / / /                    
Student to Students        
/ /                
Student to Teacher         ...
EVENT SAMPLING
(Each occurrence)
Boss shouts at employee / / / / /
Employee shouts at boss / / /
Employee’s colleague shou...
TWO DIFFERENT STORIES
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Boss shouts at employee / / / / /
Employee shouts at boss / / /
Employee’s friend shou...
INSTANTANEOUS SAMPLING
(On the instant of time)
INTERVAL RECORDING
(What has happened in the previous
time period)
1 2 3 4...
1 2 3 4 5
Warm _ _ _ _ _ Aloof
Stimulating _ _ _ _ _ Dull
Businesslike _ _ _ _ _ Slipshod
RATING SCALES
CRITICAL INCIDENTS
• Entering data consistently and at speed
• Catching all the data
• Where to observe/stand/sit
THE NEED TO PRACTISE
STRUCT...
• Frequencies
• Patterns
• Unusual data
• Frequently occurring
• Aggregated data
• Quantitized and qualitized
ANALYZING DA...
• Naturalistic research often uses participant
observation
• Observations are recorded in field notes and
audio-visually
N...
FIELD NOTES (1)
Types:
• Jottings; transcriptions; reports; pen
portraits;reconstructions of conversations;
descriptions o...
FIELD NOTES (2)
Timing and focus:
• Notes made in situ;
• Expanded notes that are made as soon as
possible after the initi...
FIELD NOTES (3)
Description
• Space: the physical setting;
• Actors: the people in the situation;
• Activities: the sets o...
FIELD NOTES (4)
Reflection:
• Reflections on the descriptions and analyses
that have been done;
• Reflections on the metho...
DATA ANALYSIS FROM FIELD NOTES
Qualitative data analysis:
• Coding, classifying, categorizing
• Nodes and connection
• Sum...
USING TECHNOLOGY IN RECORDING
OBSERVATIONS
Audio-visual recording
• Problems of reactivity
• Fixed or moving camera
• Oper...
TIMING AND CAUSALITY WITH
OBSERVATIONAL DATA
• When to observe effects of an intervention?
• How many time points for obse...
ETHICS
• Informed consent
• Covert or overt
• Disturbing the natural setting
• Deception and pretence
• Impression managem...
RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY
• Selective attention of the observer
• Reactivity
• Attention deficit of observer
• Validity of ...
PLANNING OBSERVATIONS
• When, where, how and what to observe
• How much structure is necessary in the
observation (structu...
PLANNING OBSERVATIONS
• Threats to reliability and validity
• Operationalizing the observation so that what
counts as evid...
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Chapter23

  1. 1. OBSERVATION © LOUIS COHEN, LAWRENCE MANION & KEITH MORRISON
  2. 2. STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER • Structured observation • The need to practise structured observation • Analyzing data from structured observations • Critical incidents • Naturalistic and participant observation • Data analysis for less structured observations • Natural and artificial settings for observation • The use of technology in recording observations • Timing and causality with observational data • Ethical considerations • Some cautionary comments
  3. 3. OBSERVATIONS ARE . . . • Looking (often systematically) • Noting systematically people, events, behaviours, settings, artifacts, routines etc. • Concerned with live data and situations • Selective and theory-driven (there are no neutral observations) • On a continuum from highly structured to semi-structured to unstructured
  4. 4. ROLE OF OBSERVER • Complete participant • Participant as observer • Observer as participant • Complete observer Complete participation to complete detachment
  5. 5. CONTINUA OF OBSERVATION Prespecified/pre-ordinate Responsive Quantitative Qualitative Time bound Open-ended Short-term Long-term Structured/systematic Unstructured/ad hoc Participant observation Non-participant observation Highly focused/early focused Unfocused/late focused Descriptive Explanatory Overt Covert Laboratory/contrived settings Natural settings Direct observation Indirect observation Observing others Observing self and others
  6. 6. OBSERVERS MUST CONSIDER . . . • The focus of the observation(s) • Why they are observing • The research questions that the observational data will address • What to include and exclude • How to record the observations • Where to observe • What to observe • Whom to observe • How many people, events, settings to observe
  7. 7. OBSERVERS MUST CONSIDER . . . • How systematic, structured, descriptive to be • The ‘unit’ of observation (e.g. a teacher, a student; a pair, a small group, a class) • What resources are necessary • Problems that might be encountered • Additional information that may be needed to complement the observational record • The processing and analysis of data
  8. 8. OBSERVERS MUST CONSIDER . . . • How the observation may be affected by the sex, sexuality, ethnicity, class, appearance, age, language, personality, temperament, attitude, interpersonal behaviour, familiarity with the situation, involvement and concern of the observer • Whether the observer will stand or sit, or move around a setting • Where to stand or sit
  9. 9. STRUCTURED OBSERVATION • Systematic • Enables the researcher to generate numerical data from the observations • Non-participant observer • Data entered onto a structured observation schedule
  10. 10. STRUCTURED OBSERVATION • Observation categories are discrete: no overlap • Timed • The researcher will need to practise completing the schedule consistently and at speed • The researcher will need to decide what entry/code/symbol is to be made in the appropriate category
  11. 11. Student to Student / / / /                     Student to Students         / /                 Student to Teacher                       / / / Students to Teacher             / / / / /       Teacher to Student                             Teacher to Students                             Student to Self                                                         Task in hand                    Previous task                     Future task                             Non-task                     STRUCTURED OBSERVATION       
  12. 12. EVENT SAMPLING (Each occurrence) Boss shouts at employee / / / / / Employee shouts at boss / / / Employee’s colleague shouts at boss / / Boss shouts at employee’s colleague / /
  13. 13. TWO DIFFERENT STORIES 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Boss shouts at employee / / / / / Employee shouts at boss / / / Employee’s friend shouts at boss / / Boss shouts at employee’s friend / / 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Boss shouts at employee / / / / / Employee shouts at boss / / / Employee’s friend shouts at boss / / Boss shouts at employee’s friend / /
  14. 14. INSTANTANEOUS SAMPLING (On the instant of time) INTERVAL RECORDING (What has happened in the previous time period) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Boss smiles at employee / / / / Employee smiles at boss / / / / Boss smiles at employee’s friend / / / / Employee’s friend smiles at boss / / / /
  15. 15. 1 2 3 4 5 Warm _ _ _ _ _ Aloof Stimulating _ _ _ _ _ Dull Businesslike _ _ _ _ _ Slipshod RATING SCALES CRITICAL INCIDENTS
  16. 16. • Entering data consistently and at speed • Catching all the data • Where to observe/stand/sit THE NEED TO PRACTISE STRUCTURED OBSERVATION
  17. 17. • Frequencies • Patterns • Unusual data • Frequently occurring • Aggregated data • Quantitized and qualitized ANALYZING DATA FROM STRUCTURED OBSERVATIONS
  18. 18. • Naturalistic research often uses participant observation • Observations are recorded in field notes and audio-visually NATURALISTIC AND PARTICIPANT OBSERVATION
  19. 19. FIELD NOTES (1) Types: • Jottings; transcriptions; reports; pen portraits;reconstructions of conversations; descriptions of physical settings; reports of events and behaviour; descriptions of researcher’s activities; ongoing notes; logs and diaries; notes on pre determined themes;‑ chronologs; discussion data
  20. 20. FIELD NOTES (2) Timing and focus: • Notes made in situ; • Expanded notes that are made as soon as possible after the initial observations; • Journal notes to record issues, ideas, difficulties etc. that arise during the fieldwork; • A developing, tentative running record of ongoing analysis and interpretation.
  21. 21. FIELD NOTES (3) Description • Space: the physical setting; • Actors: the people in the situation; • Activities: the sets of related acts that are taking place. • Objects: the artifacts and physical things that are there; • Acts: the specific actions that participants are doing; • Events: the sets of activities that are taking place; • Time: the sequence of acts, activities and events; • Goals: what people are trying to achieve; • Feelings: what people feel and how they express this.
  22. 22. FIELD NOTES (4) Reflection: • Reflections on the descriptions and analyses that have been done; • Reflections on the methods used in the observations and data collection and analysis; • Ethical issues, tensions, problems and dilemmas; • The reactions of the observer to what has been observed and recorded – attitude, emotion, analysis etc.; • Points of clarification that have been and/or need to be made; • Possible lines of further inquiry.
  23. 23. DATA ANALYSIS FROM FIELD NOTES Qualitative data analysis: • Coding, classifying, categorizing • Nodes and connection • Summarizing • Narrative accounts • Constant comparison • Grounded theory • Theoretical saturation • Thematic analysis • Patterning • Quantitizing (e.g. frequencies)
  24. 24. USING TECHNOLOGY IN RECORDING OBSERVATIONS Audio-visual recording • Problems of reactivity • Fixed or moving camera • Operator present with camera/camera; no operator present • How many cameras? • Location of camera(s) • Close focus or panorama?
  25. 25. TIMING AND CAUSALITY WITH OBSERVATIONAL DATA • When to observe effects of an intervention? • How many time points for observation? • How frequent are the observations? • The more accurately we wish to know the causal sequences, the more frequently and closer together must be the observational data collection points. • The more complex is the phenomenon under investigation, the more time points for observational data collection may be necessary in order to understand the causation. • Ethnography may be more useful than numerical studies in identifying causality.
  26. 26. ETHICS • Informed consent • Covert or overt • Disturbing the natural setting • Deception and pretence • Impression management • Confidentiality/anonymity/privacy/non- traceability • Protection of individuals • Loyalties (and to whom) • Ignoring dubious acts (e.g. criminal acts)
  27. 27. RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY • Selective attention of the observer • Reactivity • Attention deficit of observer • Validity of constructs • Selective data entry • Selective memory for write-ups of observations • Interpersonal matters and counter-transference • Expectancy effects • Decisions on how to record • Number of observers • The problem of inference
  28. 28. PLANNING OBSERVATIONS • When, where, how and what to observe • How much structure is necessary in the observation (structured to unstructured) • The duration of the observation period • The timing of the observation period • The context of the observation • The opportunity to observe • Merging subjective and objective observation • The value of covert participant observation in order to reduce reactivity
  29. 29. PLANNING OBSERVATIONS • Threats to reliability and validity • Operationalizing the observation so that what counts as evidence is consistent, unambiguous and valid • Appropriate kind of structured observation and recording • Ethical issues • Whether deception is justified • Which role(s) to adopt on the continuum of complete participant to complete observer
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