Introducing observational approaches in research with children and young people
Introducing observational approaches in research with children and young people

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Introducing observational approaches in research with children and young people

2 Small-scale quantitative research using observation

The second research paper that we are going to consider is a rather different study from the one you read by Coates. This chapter is by a Japanese researcher, Takei. It differs not only in terms of the topic – the emergence of signs in young deaf children as a precursor to the development of sign language – but more importantly in terms of the underlying methodology. Both studies are observational in that both Coates and Takei watched and recorded what children were doing in relatively naturalistic settings, though as you will see, Takei video-recorded the two infants he studied. However, whereas Coates's approach was qualitative, meaning that she did not transform her observations into numbers, Takei's approach was quantitative in that he reported numerical data. This distinction is important in research, and you will read more about this later in this course.

As you read, think about the guidelines that were given for your reading of Coates's research paper. To remind you, the key points to consider as you read through the paper are summarised below.

  1. Is the title a good summary of the paper? If not, what changes would you suggest?

  2. Does the ‘Abstract’ reflect the four main parts of the article (i.e. ‘Introduction’, ‘Method’, ‘Results’ and ‘Discussion’)? If not, what changes would you make?

  3. Does the ‘Introduction’ provide a clear framework and rationale for the research which follows? Would you have taken a different approach?

  4. Are there sufficient details in the ‘Method’ section for you to be able to replicate what Takei did? Identify any aspects of the methodology which are unclear.

  5. Are the results succinct and clear? Note that there may be aspects of the results, in particular the presentation and analysis of the data, which you do not understand at this point. Don't worry about this now.

  6. Does the ‘Discussion’ section relate the findings reported in the present study to the literature reported in the ‘Introduction'? Are there ways in which this section could be improved?

  7. How are the references listed?

Click on the link below and read the chapter by Takei.

Takei chapter a [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

You will also see that Takei includes a section titled ‘Acknowledgements’. This is normal practice when research has been funded by an external agency and when other people have played a part in the research but not a sufficiently large part to justify their inclusion as authors. Note that Takei has also expressed his appreciation to the infants and their mothers.

We hope you are beginning to get a feel for how research studies can differ even when they use a common approach such as observation. As you progress you will be introduced to an increasingly wide range of research studies and methodologies. Their common link is that they are all about children and young people but it is worth mentally logging, even at this early stage, any research topics, styles or approaches that particularly interest you as this will help you when you come to the examinable component.

Takei's commentary about his experiences of doing this study about deaf infants attaining their first signs will further inform your understanding. Again, this ‘Author Commentary’ immediately follows the research paper you have just read.

Activity 4

As you read Takei's ‘Author Commentary’, think about the following questions and make notes about them.

What led Takei to carry out his research?

Did he have a hypothesis? What was it?

Was his research affected by any factors beyond his control?

Do you think the fact that one couple were personal friends might have affected the research?

He chose an observational method. Why?

He took a quantitative approach. Why?

From whom did he get permission to carry out the research?

Are any ethical issues raised? What are they?

How did he go about analysing his data?

Has the research led to further questions? What are they?

Now read the ‘Author Commentary’ by Takei at the end of the chapter. As you read it, carry out Activity 4. above.

Author commentary - Takei

Now that you have studied two examples of small-scale qualitative and quantitative research we can begin to put these into a wider theoretical framework.

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