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Observation

Experimental Research Methods

❶The instrumentation plan serves as the road map for the entire study, specifying who will participate in the study; how, when, and where data will be collected; and the content of the program.. The researcher decides where the observation will take place, at what time, with which participants, in what circumstances and uses a standardised procedure.

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Controlled Observation

If a researcher chooses to use systematic time sampling, the information obtained would only generalize to the one time period in which the observation took place. In contrast, the goal of random time sampling would be to be able to generalize across all times of observation. Depending on the type of study being conducted, either type of time sampling can be appropriate. However, time sampling is not useful if the event pertaining to your research question occurs infrequently or unpredictably, because you will often miss the event in the short time period of observation.

In this scenario, event sampling is more useful. In this style of sampling, the researcher lets the event determine when the observations will take place. Situation sampling involves the study of behavior in many different locations, and under different circumstances and conditions. For this reason, situation sampling significantly increases the external validity of observational findings. Researchers may determine which subjects to observe by either selecting subjects systematically every 10th student in a cafeteria, for example or randomly, with the goal of obtaining a representative sample of all subjects.

For a good example of situation sampling, see this study by LaFrance and Mayo concerning the differences in the use of gaze direction as a regulatory mechanism in conversation.

In this study, pairs of individuals were observed in college cafeterias, restaurants, airport and hospital waiting rooms, and business-district fast-food outlets. By using situation sampling, the investigators were able to observe a wide range of people who differed in age, sex, race, and socioeconomic class, thus increasing the external validity of their research findings.

If researchers wish to study how subjects normally behave in a given setting, they will want to utilize observation without intervention, also known as naturalistic observation.

This type of observation is useful because it allows observers to see how individuals act in natural settings, rather than in the more artificial setting of a lab or experiment. A natural setting can be defined as a place in which behavior ordinarily occurs and that has not been arranged specifically for the purpose of observing behavior.

For instance, the IRB does not allow researchers interested in investigating verbal abuse between adolescent couples to place couples in laboratory settings where verbal abuse is encouraged.

However, by placing oneself in a public space where this abuse may occur, one can observe this behavior without being responsible for causing it. Naturalistic observation can also be used to verify external validity, permitting researchers to examine whether study findings generalize to real world scenarios. Naturalistic observation may also be conducted in lieu of structured experiments when implementing an experiment would be too costly.

Observation without intervention may be either overt meaning that subjects are aware they are being observed or covert meaning that subjects are not aware.

There are several disadvantages and limitations to naturalistic observation. One is that it does not allow researchers to make causal statements about the situations they observe. For this reason, behavior can only be described, not explained.

Furthermore, there are ethical concerns related to observing individuals without their consent. One way to avoid this problem is to debrief subjects after observing them, and ask for their consent then, before using the observations for research. This tactic would also help avoid one of the pitfalls of overt observation, in which observers ask for consent before observation has started.

In these situations, when subjects know they are being watched, they may alter their behavior in an attempt to make themselves look more admirable. Naturalistic observation may also be time consuming, sometimes requiring dozens of observation sessions lasting large parts of each day to collect information on the behavior of interest.

Most psychological research uses observation with some component of intervention. Reasons for intervening include: Participate observation is characterized as either undisguised or disguised. In undisguised observation, the observed individuals know that the observer is present for the purpose of collecting info about their behavior.

This technique is often used to understand the culture and behavior of groups or individuals. This technique is often used when researchers believe that the individuals under observation may change their behavior as a result of knowing that they were being recorded.

There are several benefits to doing participant observation. Firstly, participant research allows researchers to observe behaviors and situations that are not usually open to scientific observation. Furthermore, participant research allows the observer to have the same experiences as the people under study, which may provide important insights and understandings of individuals or groups. Firstly, participant observers may sometimes lose their objectivity as a result of participating in the study.

This usually happens when observers begin to identify with the individuals under study, and this threat generally increases as the degree of observer participation increases. Secondly, participant observers may unduly influence the individuals whose behavior they are recording. This effect is not easily assessed, however, it generally more prominent when the group being observed is small, or if the activities of the participant observer are prominent.

Lastly, disguised observation raises some ethical issues regarding obtaining information without respondents' knowledge. The dilemma here is of course that if informed consent were obtained from participants, respondents would likely choose not to cooperate.

Structured observation represents a compromise between the passive nonintervention of naturalistic observation, and the systematic manipulation of independent variables and precise control characterized by lab experiments.

Structured observation is frequently employed by clinical and developmental psychologists, or for studying animals in the wild. One benefit to structured observation is that it allows researchers to record behaviors that may be difficult to observe using naturalistic observation, but that are more natural than the artificial conditions imposed in a lab.

However, problems in interpreting structured observations can occur when the same observation procedures are not followed across observations or observers, or when important variables are not controlled across observations. In field experiments, researchers manipulate one or more independent variables in a natural setting to determine the effect on behavior.

This method represents the most extreme form of intervention in observational methods, and researchers are able to exert more control over the study and its participants. However, confounding may decrease internal validity of a study, and ethical issues may arise in studies involving high-risk. Indirect observation can be used if one wishes to be entirely unobtrusive in their observation method. This method was used by Albert Bandura to study aggression in children the Bobo doll studies.

A lot of research has been carried out in sleep laboratories as well. Here electrodes are attached to the scalp of participants and what is observed are the changes in electrical activity in the brain during sleep the machine is called an electroencephalogram — an EEG. 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.

Controlled observations can be easily replicated by other researchers by using the same observation schedule. This means it is easy to test for reliability. The data obtained from structured observations is easier and quicker to analyze as it is quantitative i.

Controlled observations are fairly quick to conduct which means that many observations can take place within a short amount of time. This means a large sample can be obtained resulting in the findings being representative and having the ability to be generalized to a large population.. When participants know they are being watched they may act differently. The researcher simply records what they see in whatever way they can. With regard to human subjects Margaret Mead used this method to research the way of life of different tribes living on islands in the South Pacific.

Kathy Sylva used it to study children at play by observing their behavior in a playgroup in Oxfordshire. Like case studies naturalistic observation is often used to generate new ideas. Because it gives the researcher the opportunity to study the total situation it often suggests avenues of enquiry not thought of before. These observations are often conducted on a micro small scale and may lack a representative sample biased in relation to age, gender, social class or ethnicity. This may result in the findings lacking the ability to be generalized to wider society.

Natural observations are less reliable as other variables cannot be controlled. This makes it difficult for another researcher to repeat the study in exactly the same way. A further disadvantage is that the researcher needs to be trained to be able to recognise aspects of a situation that are psychologically significant and worth further attention. With observations we do not have manipulations of variables or control over extraneous variables which means cause and effect relationships cannot be established.

Participant observation is a variant of the above natural observations but here the researcher joins in and becomes part of the group they are studying to get a deeper insight into their lives. If it were research on animals we would now not only be studying them in their natural habitat but be living alongside them as well! This approach was used by Leon Festinger in a famous study into a religious cult who believed that the end of the world was about to occur.

He joined the cult and studied how they reacted when the prophecy did not come true. The researcher takes a false identity and role, usually posing as a genuine member of the group. On the other hand, overt is where the researcher reveals his or her true identity and purpose to the group and asks permission to observe.

This means they have to wait until they are alone and reply on their memory. This is a problem as they may forget details and are unlikely to remember direct quotations. If the researcher becomes too involved they may lose objectivity and become bias.

This is a problem as they could selectively report information instead of noting everything they observe.

Naturalistic Observation

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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.

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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.

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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. Observational Method. This module describes the observational method of descriptive research and discusses its uses. Learning Objectives: Define observational research. List reasons researchers use the observational method; List and describe the three basics types of observational methods and provide examples.

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Observation is a systematic data collection approach. Researchers use all of their senses to examine people in natural settings or naturally occurring situations. () and for a discussion of participant observation as a methodology see Jorgensen (). When might observation be used? Research Methods in Cultural Anthropology. (pp. In the current research environment, its status seems to have changed, leading Adler and Adler to question whether observation is a research method “in its own right” or “a stepchild to its more widely recognized.