Give the meaning/definition of Observational Research and state its advantages and disadvantages
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 which has both strengths and weaknesses. These types are organized below by the extent to which an experimenter intrudes upon or controls the environment.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Observational Methods
Advantages of observational research
Naturalistic- Participants are in there normal environment so are more likely to react in a realistic/ genuine way.
Naturalistic- Useful for obtaining research in situations where intervention would be unethical or where co-operation from participants would be unlikely.
Controlled- Extraneous variables can be controlled easily therefore validity is higher than naturalistic observations.
Controlled- When being compared to experiments a greater range of behaviours can may be expressed.
Participant- Being involved in the social group can give the observer insight into the emotions and motives of the participants behaviours.
Participant- If the participants are unaware of the observers dual role then they may reveal more than they would otherwise.
Non participant- Observer can remain more objective about the situation as they aren’t involved.
Non participant- If observers are covert, for example hidden behind a one way screen data recording equipment would be used which means that the research could be more accurate.
Overt- Participants are aware of the observers presence this is a more ethical way to conduct the research.
Covert- Participants are less likely to be aware that they are being observed which means that they will react in a more genuine way
Covert- Data recording equipment can be used if participants are non participant and hidden behind a one way screen for example this makes the research more accurate and detailed.
Structured- Practising the used of data collection techniques further improved inter rater reliability.
Structured- Operational definitions can be developed in a pilot study which means that in the real observation all key actions can be recorded this improves validity.
Unstructured- No specific categories which means that any behaviour can be recorded so the data is wider spread and richer.
Unstructured – Can give detailed descriptions of behaviours rather than simple category totals which means that they give a more complete picture of the situation.
Disadvantages ofobservational research
Naturalistic- If observers are identified or suspected by participants validity is compromised.
Naturalistic- Extraneous variables are harder to control which means that the research may not be valid or have a high level of validity.
Controlled- Responses may not be realistic or genuine as the participants is in a artificial environment so they would react differently from how they normally would.
Controlled- The social situation is limited so cannot completely represent the reality of a complex social setting
Participant- Being involved in the social group may mean that the observer is subjective.
Participant-If a participant observer has to be hidden it raises ethical issues as the participants can’t give informed consent to the research.
Non participant- If participants aren’t aware that they are being observe it raises ethical issues as they have not given informed consent and they don’t know about the right to withdraw.
Non participant- If participants are aware of a non- participant observer it is likely to have an impact on behaviour so that it is not genuine or realistic.
Overt- Participants would be aware that they are being observed which mean that there responses would not reflect what they would normally do.
Covert- If observers are identified or suspected validity is compromised.
Covert- Participants don’t know that they are being observed it raises ethical issues as they have not given informed consent.
Structured- Having the predetermined behavioural categories may mean that the new or other behaviour cant be recorded.
Structured- Lowers validity as the total numbers of behaviours within a category may be relatively meaningless without the context in how they occurred.
Unstructured- By attempting to record everything, observes may miss or ignore important aspects of behaviour.
Unstructured- Some of the data that would be collected wouldn’t be useful towards the research aim.