Observational Methods 1: Sampling and Coding Protocols

  • Created by: Sarah
  • Created on: 06-05-16 12:24


Why use observational methods?

  • Questionnaires of limited applicability.
    only one animal species with language, out of millions of animal species. 
  • Apparatus limits generalisability.
    eg. if behavioural measuring equipment is noticeable, then results only apply to organisms that are habituated to that apparatus. 
  • Context-dependent behaviour where context might be difficult or infeasible to replicate in controlled environments. eg. behaviour of riotous mobs.

Steps in Observational Research: Our Path

  • Observe informally: get to know your subject pool firsthand
  • Ask questions
  • Choose measures
  • Choose recording method: when and how do you sample behaviour?
  • Design experiment
  • Run experiment
  • Analyse
  • Interpret
  • Ask more questions

Choosing measures

1. Define the measures with either:

  • Operational definitions: specify the physical requirements for coding a behaviour (e.g. lever press by a rat)
  • Ostensive definitions: provide examples through pictures or diagrams, along with written descriptions of the behaviour interest (e.g. coordinated play vs solitary play)

2. Classify your measures as either:

  • Events (occurences, usually, but not necessarily of short duration - approximated in points in time)
  • States (relatively long-duration events - such as sleep or play)


In past, ethogram was a list of the full behavioural repertoire of a species. 

In recent years, ethogram used to refer to both complete behavioural repertoires and the coding schemes used in specialised studies of a subset of a species' or group's behaviour (i.e. term synonymous with coding scheme). 

Sometimes used to denote a quantitative…


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