There is more to participant observation than just hanging out. It sometimes involves the researcher's working with and participating in everyday activities beside participants in their daily lives.
It also involves taking field notes of observations and interpretations. Included in this fieldwork is persistent observation and intermittent questioning to gain clarification of meaning of activities. Rapport is built over time; it involves establishing a trusting relationship with the community, so that the cultural members feel secure in sharing sensitive information with the researcher to the extent that they feel assured that the information gathered and reported will be presented accurately and dependably.
Rapport-building involves active listening, showing respect and empathy, being truthful, and showing a commitment to the well-being of the community or individual. Rapport is also related to the issue of reciprocity, the giving back of something in return for their sharing their lives with the researcher. The researcher has the responsibility for giving something back, whether it is monetary remuneration, gifts or material goods, physical labor, time, or research results.
Confidentiality is also a part of the reciprocal trust established with the community under study. They must be assured that they can share personal information without their identity being exposed to others. BERNARD states that "the most important thing you can do to stop being a freak is to speak the language of the people you're studying—and speak it well" , p. Fluency in the native language helps gain access to sensitive information and increases rapport with participants.
Learn about local dialects, he suggests, but refrain from trying to mimic local pronunciations, which may be misinterpreted as ridicule. Learning to speak the language shows that the researcher has a vested interest in the community, that the interest is not transient, and helps the researcher to understand the nuances of conversation, particularly what constitutes humor.
As mentioned in the discussion of the limitations of observation, BERNARD suggests that gender affects one's ability to access certain information and how one views others. What is appropriate action in some cultures is dependent upon one's gender. Gender can limit what one can ask, what one can observe, and what one can report.
For example, several years after completing my doctoral dissertation with Muscogee Creek women about their perceptions of work, I returned for additional interviews with the women to gather specific information about more intimate aspects of their lives that had been touched on briefly in our previous conversations, but which were not reported.
During these interviews, they shared with me their stories about how they learned about intimacy when they were growing up. Because the conversations dealt with sexual content, which, in their culture, was referred to more delicately as intimacy, I was unable to report my findings, as, to do so, would have been inappropriate. One does not discuss such topics in mixed company, so my writing about this subject might have endangered my reputation in the community or possibly inhibited my continued relationship with community members.
I was forced to choose between publishing the findings, which would have benefited my academic career, and retaining my reputation within the Creek community. I chose to maintain a relationship with the Creek people, so I did not publish any of the findings from that study.
I also was told by the funding source that I should not request additional funds for research, if the results would not be publishable. Exactly how does one go about conducting observation?
The second type, focused observation , emphasizes observation supported by interviews, in which the participants' insights guide the researcher's decisions about what to observe. Other researchers have taken a different approach to explaining how to conduct observations. The first of these elements includes the physical environment. This involves observing the surroundings of the setting and providing a written description of the context. Next, she describes the participants in detail.
Then she records the activities and interactions that occur in the setting. In her book, MERRIAM adds such elements as observing the conversation in terms of content, who speaks to whom, who listens, silences, the researcher's own behavior and how that role affects those one is observing, and what one says or thinks.
To conduct participant observation, one must live in the context to facilitate prolonged engagement ; prolonged engagement is one of the activities listed by LINCOLN and GUBA to establish trustworthiness. Living in the culture enables one to learn the language and participate in everyday activities.
Through these activities, the researcher has access to community members who can explain the meaning that such activities hold for them as individuals and can use conversations to elicit data in lieu of more formal interviews.
When I was preparing to conduct my ethnographic study with the Muscogee Creek women of Oklahoma, my professor, Valerie FENNELL, told me that I should take the attitude of "treat me like a little child who knows nothing," so that my informants would teach me what I needed to know about the culture. I found this attitude to be very helpful in establishing rapport, in getting the community members to explain things they thought I should know, and in inviting me to observe activities that they felt were important for my understanding of their culture.
DeWALT and DeWALT support the view of the ethnographer as an apprentice, taking the stance of a child in need of teaching about the cultural mores as a means for enculturation. KOTTAK defines enculturation as "the social process by which culture is learned and transmitted across generations" p.
DeWALT and DeWALT extend this list of necessary skills, adding MEAD's suggested activities, which include developing tolerance to poor conditions and unpleasant situations, resisting impulsiveness, particularly interrupting others, and resisting attachment to particular factions or individuals. ANGROSINO and DePEREZ advocate using a structured observation process to maximize the efficiency of the field experience, minimize researcher bias, and facilitate replication or verification by others, all of which make the findings more objective.
This objectivity, they explain, occurs when there is agreement between the researcher and the participants as to what is going on. Sociologists, they note, typically use document analysis to check their results, while anthropologists tend to verify their findings through participant observation.
BERNARD states that most basic anthropological research is conducted over a period of about a year, but recently there have been participant observations that were conducted in a matter of weeks.
In these instances, he notes the use of rapid assessment techniques that include. This means going into a field situation armed with a lot of questions that you want to answer and perhaps a checklist of data that you need to collect" p. BERNARD notes that those anthropologists who are in the field for extended periods of time are better able to obtain information of a sensitive nature, such as information about witchcraft, sexuality, political feuds, etc.
By staying involved with the culture over a period of years, data about social changes that occur over time are more readily perceived and understood. BERNARD and his associates developed an outline of the stages of participant observation fieldwork that includes initial contact; shock; discovering the obvious; the break; focusing; exhaustion, the second break, and frantic activity; and leaving.
In ethnographic research, it is common for the researcher to live in the culture under study for extended periods of time and to return home for short breaks, then return to the research setting for more data collection. Researchers react differently to such shock.
Some may sit in their motel room and play cards or read novels to escape. Others may work and rework data endlessly. Sometimes the researcher needs to take a break from the constant observation and note taking to recuperate. When I conducted my dissertation fieldwork, I stayed in a local motel, although I had been invited to stay at the home of some community members.
I chose to remain in the motel, because this enabled me to have the down time in the evenings that I needed to write up field notes and code and analyze data.
Had I stayed with friends, they may have felt that they had to entertain me, and I would have felt obligated to spend my evenings conversing or participating in whatever activities they had planned, when I needed some time to myself to be alone, think, and "veg" out. The aspects of conducting observations are discussed above, but these are not the only ways to conduct observations. Through freelisting, they build a dictionary of coded responses to explain various categories. They also suggest the use of pile sorting, which involves the use of cards that participants sort into piles according to similar topics.
The process involves making decisions about what topics to include. A different approach to observation, consensus analysis , is a method DeMUNCK and SOBO describe to design sampling frames for ethnographic research, enabling the researcher to establish the viewpoints of the participants from the inside out.
This involves aspects of ethnographic fieldwork, such as getting to know participants intimately to understand their way of thinking and experiencing the world. It further involves verifying information gathered to determine if the researcher correctly understood the information collected. The question of whether one has understood correctly lends itself to the internal validity question of whether the researcher has correctly understood the participants. Whether the information can be generalized addresses the external validity in terms of whether the interpretation is transferable from the sample to the population from which it was selected.
They suggest using a nested sampling frame to determine differences in knowledge about a topic. To help determine the differences, the researcher should ask the participants if they know people who have a different experience or opinion of the topic.
Seeking out participants with different points of view enables the researcher to fully flesh out understanding of the topic in that culture. They suggest that the researcher should:. Look at the interactions occurring in the setting, including who talks to whom, whose opinions are respected, how decisions are made.
Also observe where participants stand or sit, particularly those with power versus those with less power or men versus women. Counting persons or incidents of observed activity is useful in helping one recollect the situation, especially when viewing complex events or events in which there are many participants. Listen carefully to conversations, trying to remember as many verbatim conversations, nonverbal expressions, and gestures as possible. To assist in seeing events with "new eyes," turn detailed jottings into extensive field notes, including spatial maps and interaction maps.
Look carefully to seek out new insights. Keep a running observation record. He suggests that, to move around gracefully within the culture, one should:. He further shares some tips for doing better participant observation pp. It may be necessary to refocus one's attention to what is actually going on. This process involves looking for recurring patterns or underlying themes in behavior, action or inaction. Being attentive for any length of time is difficult to do. One tends to do it off and on.
One should reflect on the note taking process and subsequent writing-up practices as a critical part of fieldwork, making it part of the daily routine, keeping the entries up to date. One should also consider beginning to do some writing as fieldwork proceeds. One should take time frequently to draft expanded pieces written using "thick description," as described by GEERTZ , so that such details might later be incorporated into the final write up.
One should take seriously the challenge of participating and focus, when appropriate, on one's role as participant over one's role as observer. Fieldwork involves more than data gathering. It may also involve informal interviews, conversations, or more structured interviews, such as questionnaires or surveys. It is natural to impose on a situation what is culturally correct, in the absence of real memories, but building memory capacity can be enhanced by practicing reliable observation.
If the data one collects is not reliable, the conclusions will not be valid. Sometimes, he points out, one's expertise is what helps to establish rapport. Having good writing skills, that is, writing concisely and compellingly, is also necessary to good participant observation.
Maintaining one's objectivity means realizing and acknowledging one's biases, assumptions, prejudices, opinions, and values. The process of mapping, as he describes it, involves describing the relationship between the sociocultural behavior one observes and the physical environment.
The researcher should draw a physical map of the setting, using as much detail as possible. This mapping process uses only one of the five senses—vision. If you are intrigued, you will be pleased to know that what you are doing is a subdiscipline of anthropology called cultural ecology" p. It involves looking at the interaction of the participants with the environment.
All cultures, no matter how simple or sophisticated, are also rhythms, music, architecture, the dances of living. To look at culture as style is to look at ritual" p. KUTSCHE refers to ritual as being the symbolic representation of the sentiments in a situation, where the situation involves person, place, time, conception, thing, or occasion.
Ritual and habit are different, KUTSCHE explains, in that habits have no symbolic expression or meaning such as tying one's shoes in the same way each time. They indicate that counting, census taking, and mapping are important ways to help the researcher gain a better understanding of the social setting in the early stages of participation, particularly when the researcher is not fluent in the language and has few key informants in the community. Social differences they mention that are readily observed include differences among individuals, families, or groups by educational level, type of employment, and income.
Things to look for include the cultural members' manner of dress and decorative accoutrements, leisure activities, speech patterns, place of residence and choice of transportation. They also add that one might look for differences in housing structure or payment structure for goods or services.
Field notes are the primary way of capturing the data that is collected from participant observations. Notes taken to capture this data include records of what is observed, including informal conversations with participants, records of activities and ceremonies, during which the researcher is unable to question participants about their activities, and journal notes that are kept on a daily basis.
As they note, observations are not data unless they are recorded into field notes. DeMUNCK and SOBO advocate using two notebooks for keeping field notes, one with questions to be answered, the other with more personal observations that may not fit the topics covered in the first notebook. They do this to alleviate the clutter of extraneous information that can occur when taking. Field notes in the first notebook should include jottings, maps, diagrams, interview notes, and observations.
In the second notebook, they suggest keeping memos, casual "mullings, questions, comments, quirky notes, and diary type entries" p. One can find information in the notes easily by indexing and cross-referencing information from both notebooks by noting on index cards such information as "conflicts, gender, jokes, religion, marriage, kinship, men's activities, women's activities, and so on" p.
They summarize each day's notes and index them by notebook, page number, and a short identifying description. Case Studies are a type of observational research that involve a thorough descriptive analysis of a single individual, group, or event. They can be designed along the lines of both nonparticipant and participant observation. Both approaches create new data, while archival research involves the analysis of data that already exist. A hypothesis is generated and then tested by analyzing data that have already been collected.
This is a useful approach when one has access to large amounts of information collected over long periods of time. Such databases are available, for example, in longitudinal research that collects information from the same individuals over many years.
All forms of observational or field research benefit extensively from the special capabilities of a dedicated data anlaysis tool like ATLAS. Download the Free Trial Version below to find out how it works and how it can help you with your research!
Describing atypical individuals may lead to poor generalizations and detract from external validity. In survey method research, participants answer questions administered through interviews or questionnaires.
After participants answer the questions, researchers describe the responses given. In order for the survey to be both reliable and valid it is important that the questions are constructed properly.
Questions should be written so they are clear and easy to comprehend. Another consideration when designing questions is whether to include open-ended, closed-ended, partially open-ended, or rating-scale questions for a detailed discussion refer to Jackson, Advantages and disadvantages can be found with each type:. Open-ended questions allow for a greater variety of responses from participants but are difficult to analyze statistically because the data must be coded or reduced in some manner.
Closed-ended questions are easy to analyze statistically, but they seriously limit the responses that participants can give. In addition to the methods listed above some individuals also include qualitative as a distinct method and archival methods when discussing descriptive research methods. It is important to emphasize that descriptive research methods can only describe a set of observations or the data collected.
It cannot draw conclusions from that data about which way the relationship goes — Does A cause B, or does B cause A? Nothing could be further from the truth. Research Methods and Statistics:
Observational Research. What is Observational Research? Observational research (or field research) is a type of correlational (i.e., non-experimental) research in which a researcher observes ongoing behavior. There are a variety of types of observational research, each of which has both strengths and weaknesses.
Observation is a key data collection technique for UX research. Observational research typically happens in the users’ home, workplace, or natural environment and not in a lab or controlled setting. With this research, you can understand how people naturally interact with products and people and the challenges they face.
Controlled observations are usually overt as the researcher explains the research aim to the group, so the participants know they are being observed. Controlled observations are also usually non-participant as the researcher avoids any direct contact with the group, keeping a distance (e.g. observing behind a two-way mirror).Author: Saul Mcleod. Observation, as the name implies, is a way of collecting data through observing. Observation data collection method is classified as a participatory study, because the researcher has to immerse herself in the setting where her respondents are, while taking notes and/or recording.
Types of Observation in Research are Participant & Non-Participant, Different Types of Observation. Mon, 07/22/ - Umar Farooq. The actual behavior of the group can be observed only by participant observation not by any other method. Merits. Descriptive research methods are pretty much as they sound -- they describe situations. They do not make accurate predictions, and they do not determine cause and effect. There are three main types of descriptive methods: observational methods, case-study methods and survey methods.