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Discussion: Observational Studies and Coding

In Chapter 7, you read about naturalistic research methods. This type of research is designed to help the researcher understand behavior in the setting in which it occurs naturally, rather than in a laboratory or other controlled setting. Naturalistic research is appealing because it simulates reality. However, it is challenging because the researcher has limited control over the participants and the settings.

Observational research is one of the common types of naturalistic designs. As a researcher, you might hide your identity and blend in with the natural environment. In this case, you would be an unacknowledged observer in the study. When appropriate, you also may let participants know, usually after you have conducted your observations, about the study and reveal your identity. In this case, you would be an acknowledged observer in the study. In both cases, it is a challenge to measure and record the behavior you are studying because the participants are usually moving constantly, and/or are scattered about, thus making it difficult to record every behavioral occurrence under observation. Since you are observing behavior and not using surveys or other means to collect data from your participants, you need to clearly identify the behavior you are studying and use a coding sheet to track the observed behavior.

In this Discussion, you develop an idea for a hypothetical observational study and create a coding sheet you could use to record your observations.

To prepare:

  • Read Chapter 7 in your course text.
  • Review the coding form example in Figure 7.1 on page 138 of your course text.
  • Choose a setting where you would enjoy observing behavior. It might be someplace you go everyday (like the grocery store) or it might be a place you would like to go (such as a city park).
  • Create a coding form for a hypothetical observational study of the setting your selected. Use the coding sheet in the course text as an example, but create something that is entirely your own. Note: This is a hypothetical study. You are creating a coding form but not conducting the actual observation study (because you would need to obtain IRB approval first).
  • Prepare to upload your coding form as an attachment (in .doc or .rtf format) to your posting.

With these thoughts in mind:

By Day 3
  1. The topic of your hypothetical observational study. This should also be in the “Subject” field of your post this week (e.g., Child Playground Behavior).
  2. In the main body of your post, provide background information on your hypothetical observational study, including the setting, why you are interested in this study, and what you hope to learn.
  3. Explain whether you would be an acknowledged or unacknowledged observer and why.
  4. Describe the types of behavior and the episodes you included on your coding form.
  5. Upload the coding form you created as an attached document (.doc or .rtf format).

Note: Be sure to support your postings and responses with specific references to the Learning Resources.

Read a selection of your colleagues’ postings.

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