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Observational methods in psychology

Controlled Observation

❶However, confounding may decrease internal validity of a study, and ethical issues may arise in studies involving high-risk. FINE uses the term "peopled ethnography" to describe text that provides an understanding of the setting and that describes theoretical implications through the use of vignettes, based on field notes from observations, interviews, and products of the group members.

What is Observational Research?

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Naturalistic Observation
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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.

Thus reducing the validity of their data. With all observation studies an important decision the researcher has to make is how to classify and record the data. Usually this will involve a method of sampling. The three main sampling methods are:. The observer decides in advance what types of behavior events she is interested in and records all occurrences. All other types of behavior are ignored. The observer decides in advance that observation will take place only during specified time periods e.

Instantaneous target time sampling. The observer decides in advance the pre-selected moments when observation will take place and records what is happening at that instant.

Everything happening before or after is ignored. Following is a list of some of those reasons and situations:.

There are three main types of observational methods based primarily on the extent to which the researcher controls or interacts with the environment. The following list describes the three methods and provides an example of each. Naturalistic Observation - This method takes place in the natural, every day setting of the participants. In naturalistic observation, there is no intervention by the researcher. This type of observational method is sometimes referred to nonparticipant observation.

In fact, the researcher typically attempts to carry out the observations without the knowledge of the participants. In this way, the researcher is able to observe the spontaneous, natural behavior of the participants in their natural surroundings. The advantage of this type of method is the increased ecological validity. The disadvantages of this method are that the observations usually take place on a small scale with a small sample size and the participants may not truly be representative of the larger population.

Naturalistic observations may also more difficult to replicate. A researcher may use naturalistic observation to study the behaviors and interactions of pre-school aged children on a playground at recess. Participant Observation - In participant observation, the researcher intervenes in the environment in some manner. This is done to be able to observe behaviors that may otherwise not be accessible to the researcher. The observations can either be covert or overt. If they are covert, the researcher is under cover and his or her real identity and purpose are concealed.

If the observations are overt, the researcher will reveal his or her real identity and intent and will ask permission to make the observations. The advantage is that it provides a deeper insight into the participants. A researcher may want to study the behaviors and habits of a particular religious group and joins the group in order to gain access.

Controlled Observation — This type of observational method is carried out under controlled, arranged conditions, often in a laboratory setting. Controlled observations are overt as the researcher will explain the purpose of the research and the participants know they are being observed. Each test subject is exposed to the same situation in order to examine differences between individual reactions.

The advantage of this type of method is that the study is reproducible and therefore, can be tested for reliability. These studies are often fairly quick and can accommodate a larger sample size as well. The data is often coded to be numerical in nature which allows for less time consuming data analysis. The disadvantage is that this type of method may have less validity due to the Hawthorne effect, which states that participants may behave differently when they know that they are being watched.

A researcher is conducting sleep studies on trauma victims to examine the impact of traumatic events on sleep patterns and habits. Regardless of the type of observational method used, the researcher must have a plan for recording data.

The types of data collected may take many forms:. The researcher must also determine the method of sampling and when to record data. In event sampling, the researcher determines which behaviors are of interest and records all occurrences, ignoring all other behavior.

With time sampling , the observations take place for pre-determined periods of time such as 1 hour per day. Finally, instantaneous sampling determines, in advance, particular times instances when observations will be made.

The types of data recording methods and sampling methods are important to the reproducibility of the study. Observation Methods - Provides an overview of 3 types of observational research methods and includes a discussion of data recording. The 3 Basic Types of Descriptive Research Methods — Describes the 3 basic types of descriptive research methods — observational, case study, and survey methods.

Observation — Defines observational method and discusses common types of observational research methods. Observational Research — Defines observational research and contains links to resources for data analysis, including software. This pin will expire , on Change. This pin never expires.

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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 .

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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 Author: Saul Mcleod. However, he identifies serveral skills associated with participant observation. Click here for more. For a more developed discussion of the distinction between observation and participant observation see Savage () and for a discussion of participant observation as a methodology see Jorgensen ().

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Observational research is defined as the method of viewing and recording the actions and behaviors of participants. It is described as being a systematic observation method, which implies that the observation techniques are sensible and replicable procedures so that the research . Observational research is a method of data collection that has become associated with qualitative research. [1] Compared with quantitative research and experimental research, observational research tends to be less reliable but often more valid [ citation needed ].