3 Observation as a research tool
Observation is an important tool for all researchers and is frequently used to collect data in both quantitative and qualitative studies. There is much more to observation than just 'watching' and there are different types of observation techniques which can be employed. This is the focus of the two sections you are going to study in the next PDF.
For this activity you will need to revisit the first two PDF files that you looked at in this course – links to these have been supplied below.
Click on the link below to open the chapter by Coates.
Click on the link below to open the chapter by Takei.
Click on the link below and read 'Observation' from Introduction to Social Research by Keith F. Punch
Reflect on the differences that Punch identifies between qualitative and quantitative approaches to observation. These are also referred to by him as unstructured and structured approaches. Make a table like the one below, using it to make a note of the characteristics of qualitative (unstructured) approaches. Then, think back to the research paper by Coates and see if you can give an example of each characteristic. We've suggested one to get you started.
|Qualitative/unstructured characteristics||Example in Coates|
|Researcher does not manipulate the behaviour of those being observed.||Coates observed the children in a naturalistic setting – she did not manipulate the grouping or 'direct' their activity in any way.|
Now try and do the same for the quantitative/structured approaches using examples fromTakei's research paper.
|Quantitative/structured characteristics||Example in Takei|
This activity may suggest to you that research is either qualitative or quantitative. However, in reality many research studies involve both approaches.