More on research design
Observational objectives may be used in all aorts of studies. For example, in an experimental study you might look at whether people work better in a library or thier own room. In order to assess the quality of their studying you might observe participants and record how much of their time they are actually studying as opposed to daydreaming! The study is an experiment because there is an independant variable (studying in the library or at home). The dependant variable (quality of study) is assessed using observational techniques. Other research studies are solely observational. For example, a researcher might wish to look at students' study habits and therefore observe students studying and record the different behaviours. This might be conducted as a naturalistic observation where all variables are free to vary, or could be a controlled observation where certain elements of the situation are controlled by the researcher.
Making reliable observations In order to produce reliable observations it is necessary to devise objective methods to seperate the continuous stream of action we observe into separate behavioural components, i.e. operationalise the target behaviour(s). This can be done by creating behavioural categories. Such categories should:
- Be clearly operationalised and objective - the observer shoudl not have to make inferences about the behaviour.
- Cover all possible component behaviours and avoid a 'waste basket' catergory.
- Be mutually exclusive, meaning that you should not have to makr two categories at one time.
The behavioural categories can be presented in the form of a behaviour checklist (a list of component behaviours) or as a coding system (a code is given to individual behaviours for ease of recording).
Sampling In many situations, continuous observation is not possible because there would be too much data to record, therefore systematic methods of smapling behaviour are used. Event…