Observational design

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  • Observational design
    • Unstructured observation - records all relevant behaviour but has no system, for example noting what people do as they tackle a difficult exam question. This might be used if no research has been conducted before as a kind of pilot study to see the kinds of behaviours that might be recorded using a structured system.
      • A problem with this could be that there might be too much to record. Also the behaviours recorded will be the most visible or eye-catching to the observer but not necessarily the most important behaviours.
    • Structured observations
      • Systems of organise observations to make them more objective and rigorous. The main ways of structuring observations are:
        • Untitled
        • Behavioural categories  - Dividing a target behaviour such as stress of aggression into a subset of specific and operationalised  behaviours, for example infant behaviour into a list of smiling, crying, sleeping, etc. These categories should be objective, cover all possible component behaviours and be mutually exclusive.
        • Sampling procedures - selecting behaviours. They are often used when there are too many behaviours to record. There's event sampling - counting the number of times a certain behaviour occurs in an individual, like how many times someone smiles in a 10-minute interval. There's also  time sampling - recording behaviours in a given time frame, like noting what the individual does every 30 seconds, ticking one or more categories from a checklist.


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