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    SociologyExchange.co.uk Shared Resource SociologyExchange.co.uk Shared Resource Document Transcript

    • Observations in general Observation studies involve watching listening and recording what is going on. Ideally it will be free flowing natural behavior that is not affected in any way by the observers presence, but this is an ideal we can rarely achieve. There is almost nothing else that can be said in general about observations because there are a number of types that to some extent can be mixed and matched to give different strengths and weakness. If you decide to record your observations in a qualitative way rather than a quantitative way that will be the most defining feature of your research, so you should learn the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative research separately and apply them accordingly. The other types of observation are:- o Naturalistic observation o Structured observation o Participant observation o Non-participant observation o Overt observation o Covert observation With naturalistic and structured observation we are mainly talking about the setting of the study, but again the real issues about the study will depend on whether or not its overt,covert,participant or non-participant,so I will just give a brief description of naturalistic and structured and then move on. Naturalistic observation This is a study conducted in the natural setting which obviously adds to the ecological validity of the research. Structured observation Is where we set up a situation often it is done in order to break down aspects of behaviours noted during a previous observation. (Which may have been unstructured or purely naturalistic) This is rarely used in sociology as setting up a situation is seen to interfere too much with the natural flow of behavior. It is used more in psychological studies and is often part of an experimental procedure.
    • Non participant observation Overt  This is when you watch people from the sidelines with their knowledge it may be in a natural setting or it may be structured and behind a 2 way mirror even if they do know.  You usually have a behavior categories sheet that you fill in throughout.  you may take time samples which means you might watch for 10mins every half an hour or at random times.  You may take event sampling which means you watch specifically at times when something interesting is happening eg meal times, play time.  Can be used in experiments; as a measure of the dependant variable,  As a research method in its own right, there is no manipulated variable. observers collect data without interfering . Advantages:  More objective and impartial than Pp observation.  Easier to make records than covert Pp observation; records are likely therefore to be more accurate (valid)  Easier to repeat procedures than covert pp obs.so can check reliability  Ethical. Disadvantages • may not fully understand what they are seeing they don’t have the full context and you cant really ask people what they mean without upsetting the flow. Also it would be hard to remember it all if covert as they may need to record it retrospectively. • Catagories may actually create a bias depending on what you choose to include. • Less valid as highly susceptible to demand characteristics or just plain showing off people are unlikely to behave in exactly the same way they would if they did not know they were being watched. • Observer's presence is likely to affect the validity of the behaviour observed Non participant observation covert  This is when you watch people from the sidelines without their knowledge it is usually in a natural setting   you may take time or event samples which means you watch for 10mins every half an hour or at random times or you watch
    • specifically at times when something interesting is happening eg meal times,play time.  Can be used in experiments; as a measure of the dependant variable.  As a research method in its own right, there is no manipulated variable. observers collect data without meddling. Advantages:  Behaviour is naturally occurring and unrestrained; not distorted by demand characteristics; more ecologically valid.  Behavior unaffected by anxiety or a need to impress.  Includes the full context of the behavior; rich source of information; speech, actions, interaction, body language etc. Disadvantages:  less control over extraneous variables  Observer may have trouble remaining hidden (affects validity)  subjective interpretation of events a problem.  if coding system too rigid, may not record interesting and relevant behavior  may forget things if have to record at a later time to avoid detection  Ethics because no informed consent given. Participant observation Covert  This is being undercover as part of the group or situation and secretly watching free flowing behavior and recording in some way what you see.  As a research method in its own right, there is no manipulated variable and usually little control; observers collect data without interfering with anything as far as is possible.  You may have a behaviour categories sheet that you fill in throughout if you can or later, you may take time or event samples but covert participant observation usually collects qualitative languge based recording of the behavior and try to explain it in context as far as possible. Advantages  High ecological validity; behaviour not affected in same way as it would be in a non-participant overt observation.
    •  Highly rich source of information; access to information likely to be much greater see things you wouldn’t otherwise see which is good for validity. Disadvantage  may not fully understand what they are seeing they don’t have the full context . Also it would be hard to remember it all as covert they may need to record it retrospectively.  observer's presence is likely to affect the validity of the behaviour observed even if they don’t know why you are there ,but would try to avoid this.  Once involved in the situation it may be difficult to be objective  May become distracted from observation due to role taken within the group. (a  Reliability hard to assess as quality of data obtained relies upon the relationships that the individual is able to form with the group members which is difficulto replicate.  May go native  Can be dangerous at times  Ethical issues in the deception involved. Participant observation overt  This is joining a group in some capacity and watching and recording behaviour while the people involved know that you are doing it.  As a research method in its own right, there is no manipulated variable and usually little control; observers collect data without meddling!  You may have a behaviour categories sheet that you fill in throughout if you can .  you may take time or event samples.  Often you would use qualitative methods of recording with this method..  You may have a behavior categories sheet that you fill in throughout.  you may take time or event samples which means you watch for 10mins every half an hour or at random times or you watch specifically at times when something interesting is happening eg meal times,play time. Advantages: • Easier to make records than covert Pp observation; records are likely therefore to be more accurate (valid) • Easier to repeat procedures than covert pp obs.
    • • Ethical. • More likely to get a good context on what you are seeing than you would be watching it from the sidelines. Disadvantages.  Less valid as highly susceptible to demand characteristics or just plain showing off people are unlikely to behave in exactly the same way they would if they did not know they were being watched.  Observer's presence is likely to affect the validity of the behaviour observed especially if participating in the activity you would try to avoid this but it would be difficult.