Apply Exploratory Research
BTM 8103, Assignment 5
DuBose, Justin Z.
Dr. Robert Levasseur
8 April 2018
What is naturalistic observation? How does a researcher collect data when conducting naturalistic observation research?
In conducting research, researchers employ a variety of research approaches. One common approach is naturalistic observation. Naturalistic observation occurs when “the researcher goes into the field to observe the phenomenon in its natural state” (Trochim, 2016, p. 62). In this research approach, the researcher is simply observing and taking field notes on the researched phenomenon. Cozby (2014) noted that this research approach originated in the field of anthropology but is commonly and widely used in the field of social sciences today. While employing naturalistic observation, the researcher does not attempt, in any way, to influence the phenomenon or any other variable and its relationship to the phenomenon (Cozby, 2014). Once the researcher has satisfactorily recorded their field notes, these notes and other data are often “subsequently coded and analyzed for major themes” (Trochim, 2016, p. 62).
Why are the data in naturalistic observation research primarily qualitative?
When conducting research, the collected data is primarily qualitative in nature. This is because such data “are the descriptions of the observations themselves rather than quantitative statistical summaries” (Cozby, 2014, p. 120). In other words, each of these naturalistic observations, as recorded by the researcher, are descriptions of behavior and relationships as opposed to any form of statistical analysis. Thus, naturalistic observation is not only beyond the scope of statistical analysis but also a subjective interpretation of events, behaviors, and relationships.
The data gathered from naturalistic observation forms “a complex picture of the problem or issue under study. This involves reporting multiple perspectives, identifying the many factors involved in a situation, and generally sketching the larger picture that emerges” (Creswell, 2013, p. 186).
Distinguish between participant and nonparticipant observation; between concealed and nonconcealed observation.
When a researcher is conducting naturalistic observation, they are either engaging in participant observation or nonparticipant observation. In participant observation, the researcher places themselves inside the observed environment, thus placing themselves in the role of participant. One benefit from participant observation is that it places the researcher in closer and more direct proximity to the objects of their observation. This benefit allows them greater observation opportunities, which is likely reflected in more detailed field notes about their research subjects.
Cozby (2014) notes, however, that there are problems with participant observation. Primarily, he suggested, the problem “is that the observer may lose the objectivity necessary to conduct scientific observation. Remaining objective may be especially difficult when the researcher already belongs to the group being studied or is a dissatisfied former member of the group” (p. 121).
Nonparticipant observation occurs when the researcher remains outside of the realm of observation. In nonparticipant observation, the researcher is in no way involved as a participant in the research but retains status as an outsider who observes the environment from a distance. While this likely allows the researcher greater objectivity in their research, it also keeps them at a greater distance from the phenomenon which they are observing.
Similarly, researchers will either conduct concealed or nonconcealed observation during their research. Concealed observation occurs when the researched subjects are not aware of the presence of the researcher (Cozby, 2014). Conversely, nonconcealed observation occurs when those research subjects are aware of the presence and purposes of the researcher in their environment.
Like participant and nonparticipant observation, concealed and nonconcealed observation each have their own benefits and drawbacks. Cozby (2014) noted that the primary concern in deciding between concealed and nonconcealed observation was research ethics. Concealed observation allows for a greater likelihood that research participants will not alter their behavior due to the presence of the researcher. However, it also creates ethical dilemmas for the researcher depending upon the nature of their research. Henle & Hubbell (1938), for example, conducted a concealed observation of college students by hiding underneath their beds. Their intent was to discover what these college students discussed in private, but their concealment highlights obvious ethical concerns of accessing dormitory rooms and hiding underneath beds without the knowledge of approval of those students.
What is systematic observation? Why are the data from systematic observation primarily quantitative?
While naturalistic observation is one research technique utilized by researchers, systematic observation is a differing research technique. In systematic observation, researchers meticulously and systematically observe specific behaviors or relationships in a more controlled setting. Systematic observation can occur either in a naturalistic setting or a laboratory setting (Cozby, 2014). Regardless of the setting, systematic observation leads to data which is quantitative in nature because the research observations themselves are quantifiable (Cozby, 2014).
One example of systematic observation is Bakeman & Brownlee (1980) and their study of child behavior in social settings. They placed children in groups and systematically observed the number of instances in which they played alone, played alongside other children, or played with other children. The resulting data was quantitative in that the data was quantifiable by the number of occurrences in which various children played either alone, alongside other children, or with other children.
What is a coding system? What are some important considerations when developing a coding system?
Each researcher must develop a coding system to classify observed data. This is true of both naturalistic and systematic observation. A coding system for research is a methodological approach to categorizing data. Each coding system considers the observations and field notes of the researcher and breaks them down further into categories and/or themes (Trochim, 2016).
Cozby (2014) identified four main considerations of researchers when constructing a coding system for their data: equipment, reactivity, reliability, and sampling. In developing a coding system, researchers must consider the equipment used in gathering the observations and its suitability to the research. Did the researcher use a pencil and paper when an audio recorder would have been more appropriate? Ramirez-Esparza, Mehl, Alvarez-Bermúdez, & Pennebaker (2009), for example, observed the social behaviors of Mexicans and Americans and, when using audio equipment, received more detailed information which allowed for more accurately coded data. This, in turn contributed to more precise and accurate conclusions. Reactivity refers to the reaction of the observed subjects, and reliability refers to accuracy of the measurement tool used to collect data (Cozby, 2014). To increase reliability, multiple researchers collect data (Cozby, 2014). Finally, sampling refers to the particular size and scope of observed subjects selected by the researcher and the ability of the researcher to project the observed behaviors of that population onto a larger, broader population (Cozby, 2014). Each of these four characteristics are imperative to the development of an accurate coding system.
What is a case study? When are case studies used? What is a psychobiography?
A case study is “an observational method that provides a description of an individual. This individual is usually a person, but it may also be a setting such as a business, school, or neighborhood” (Cozby, 2014, p. 125). One type of case study is a psychobiography. “A psychobiography is a type of case study in which a researcher applies psychological theory to explain the life of an individual, usually an important historical figure” (Cozby, 2014, p. 125). Researchers use case studies and psychobiographies to develop theories of behavior and to research phases of childhood development (Trochim, 2016).
What is archival research? What are the major sources of archival data?
Archival research is research which uses “previously compiled information to answer research questions” (Cozby, 2014, p. 126). In archival research, researchers typically rely on existing sources of data rather than observing and collecting original data (Cozby, 2014). Major sources of archival data include various public records, existing reports on a given subject, and other information contained in databases (Cozby, 2014). Cozby (2014) noted two major problems associated with archival research. “First, the desired records may be difficult to obtain: They may be placed in long-forgotten storage places, or they may have been destroyed. Second, we can never be completely sure of the accuracy of information collected by someone else.” (Cozby, 2014, p. 128).
What is content analysis?
Content analysis is similar to archival research in that it is “the systematic analysis of existing documents” (Cozby, 2014, p. 128). More specifically, however, content analysis refers to the process of coding information gathered from existing documents whereas archival research refers to a particular approach to research. Researchers undergoing archival research would use content analysis in their research of archived data to define and delineate categories for the information and content discovered in the archived data.
Bakeman, R. & Brownlee, J.R. (1980). The strategic use of parallel play: A sequential analysis. Child Development, 51, 873-878. doi:10.2307/1129476
Cozby, P. C. (2014). Methods in behavioral research (12th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw Hill Higher Education.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Henle, M. & Hubbell, M.B. (1938). “Egocentricity” in adult conversation. Journal of Social Psychology, 9, 227-234. doi:10.1080/00224545.1938.9921692
Ramírez-Esparza, N., Mehl, M. R., Alvarez-Bermúdez, J. & Pennebaker, J. W. (2009). Are Mexicans more sociable than Americans? Insights from a naturalistic observation study. Journal of Research in Personality, 43, 1-7. doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2008.09.002
Trochim, W., Donnelly, J., & Arora, K. (2016). Research methods: The essential knowledge base (2nd ed.). Mason, OH: Cengage.
NG, LR, & NCU
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