Direct Observation
• Describe methods and goals of direct
observation
• Carry out an unstructured observation on a
segment of video, writing up notes, with as
little analysis as possible
Direct Observations
• Participant Observation
• Unstructured Direct Observation
• Structured Observation
6 differences between (ordinary)
observer and participant observer
1 PURPOSE
• engage in activities appropriate to the situation
• observe the activities, people & physical aspects of
the situation
2. EXPLICIT AWARENESS
normally filter out much of what goes on in an activity, but
not as a participant observer
3. WIDE-ANGLE LENS
take in a much broader spectrum of information
4. INSIDER/OUTSIDER Experience
do the activity and see what people around you are doing too,
so can be both at the same time
5. INTROSPECTION
-Normally take most of an experience for granted
-As a participant observer, find out what it feels like to do
something
6. RECORD KEEPING
Get close enough to people and
make them feel comfortable
enough in your presence so you
can record information about
their lives
Alternate between roles of
participant & observer
• (active to passive),
participating observer (usual role
for social research), passive
observing participant, active
What to do?
attend ceremonies (funerals, seasonal
festive events)
– do the work
– be around and talk when conversation
comes up
– jokes
5 reasons to do participant
observation to learn about culture
1 Can collect sensitive data, impossible as a
stranger
STUDENT EXAMPLES
reasons to do participant
observation to learn about culture
2. Reduces reactivity, get higher validity of data
(Beloksi visit)
reasons to do participant
observation to learn about culture
3. Helps formulate questions, as you understand
culture better
(supervision in health post workers)
reasons to do participant
observation to learn about culture
4. Helps understand meanings, can make strong
statements about cultural data you have
collected
(telling mothers to boil water)
reasons to do participant
observation to learn about culture
5. Basis for general understanding of how social
organization works
(emic concept of poverty absent)
5 rules to follow for making an
entry into fieldwork
1. Choose easy site over a difficult one, if all else
is the same
rules to follow for making an
entry into fieldwork
2. Bring documentation about yourself and
project
rules to follow for making an
entry into fieldwork
3. Arrange to be introduced, have a contact
(Gongtala, Ephrosini)
rules to follow for making an
entry into fieldwork
4. Prepare answers to questions expected to be
asked
What will you do with this information?
What are you doing here?
What are your qualifications?
Why do you want to do this?
Who sent you?
Who is paying you?
What good to us is the work that you do?
Why are you working with the other group and not us?
How many children do you have?
Is it true about American women that they.......?
How much money do you make?
What does your camera cost?
Do you have some medicine?
rules to follow for making an
entry into fieldwork
5. Get to know the physical and social layout of
the scene
•
•
•
•
Ethnographies
Maps
Organizational charts
Internet
Skills
Establish rapport
eye contact?
physical contact?
(materials about yourself, pictures)
Skills
Language esp. the sounds:
Skills
Explicit awareness (facial expressions, body
language):
(Newars nose piercings)
Skills
Naiveté
Skills
Memory
Skills
Writing skills to expand what you observed
THICK DESCRIPTION
Possible conflicting roles
participant or observer:
Reactivity
Objectivity
Record your feelings and reactions to what
you observe
Studying your Own Culture
FIELDWORK: Gender, Parenting,
Personal Characteristics, Sex
Consent issues:
– Many political aspects
Unstructured focused
observations
Purpose is exploration
Speak in 5 different ways:
–
–
–
–
–
Body
Face
Eyes
Tone of voice
What we actually say (~20% of communication)
Emphasis on note-taking
– record what you see and hear,
emphasize thick, detailed description
– video and film technology helpful, but
limited to field of lens
Scripting format
– Time, activities in sequence
– Can record a timeline when activities
occurred
Levels of observation
– regional (often impractical)
– community (walk around, do a map, go
to markets, stores, temples)
– neighborhood/compound (types of
buildings, where walls are, how used)
– household/event
– individual
Focal topic or subject
– person (follow child around)
– location (meeting room for village
committee?)
– event (wedding or meal, or disciplining
behavior)
– have a guide like EFG
What to record?
– who
– where
– when
– what (break behaviors into discrete
units)
What to record?
–
–
–
–
why
key behaviors
what does not happen
maps and diagrams
Description Question Matrix
Spradley Participant Observation
Descriptive Question Matrix Pg. 82-3
SPAC E
SPAC E
OBJECT
AC T
AC TIVITY
EVEN T
TIME
AC TOR
GOA L
FEELING
OBJECT
AC T
AC TIVITY EVEN T
TIME
AC TOR
GOA L
FEELING
S PAC E
O B JE CT
S PAC E
O B JECT
A CT
A C T IV ITY
E V EN T
T IM E
A C TO R
G O AL
F E E L IN G
C an yo u
W ha t are a ll the
W ha t are a ll the
W ha t are a ll the
W ha t are a ll the
W ha t spa tia l
W ha t are a ll the
W ha t are a ll the
W ha t p la ce s are
d es c rib e in
w ay s spa ce is
w ay s spa ce is
w ay s spa ce is
w ay s spa ce is
ch an ge s o cc ur
w ay s spa ce is
w ay s spa ce is
asso ci a te d w ith
d et a il a ll the
o rg a nized b y
o rg a nized b y
o rg a nized b y
o rg a nized b y
o ve r tim e ?
u se d b y a ct o rs?
re la ted to go als?
fe el ing s?
p la c es?
o bj e ct s?
ac ts?
ac tiv it ies?
ev en ts?
W he re are
C an yo u
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
H ow a re ob je c ts
W ha t a re al l th e
H ow a re ob je c ts
W ha t a re al l th e
o bj e ct s lo ca ted ?
d es c rib e in
w ay s o bjec ts a re
w ay s o bjec ts a re
w ay s o bjec ts a re
u se d at d iff e re nt
w ay s o bjec ts a re
u se d in s ee k in g
w ay s o bjec ts
d et a il a ll the
u se d in a ct s?
u se d in
u se d in e ve n ts?
tim e s?
u se d b y a ct o rs?
g oa ls?
ev ok e fe e li n gs?
o bj e ct s?
A CT
ac tiv it ies?
W he re do th e
H ow d o a cts
C an yo u
H ow a re ac ts a
H ow a re ac ts a
H ow d o a cts
W ha t a re th e
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
ac ts oc cu r?
in co rp or a te the
d es c rib e in
p ar t of
p ar t of ev en ts?
v ar y ov er tim e ?
w ay s a ct s are
w ay s a ct s are
w ay s a ct s are
u se of ob je c ts?
d et a il a ll the
ac tiv it ies?
p er for me d b y
re la ted to go als?
link ed to
a ct s?
A C T IV ITY
E V EN T
T IM E
ac to rs?
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
C an yo u
W ha t a re al l th e
H ow d o
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
H ow d o
p la c es ac tiv iti e s
w ay s a ct ivi tie s
w ay s a ct ivi tie s
d es c rib e in
w ay s a ct ivi tie s
ac tiv it ies va ry at
w ay s a ct ivi tie s
w ay s a ct ivi tie s
ac tiv it ies
o cc u r?
in co rp or a te
in co rp or a te
d et a il a ll the
are p art o f
d iff e re nt tim es?
in vo lv e a ct o rs?
in vo lv e g oa ls ?
in vo lv e
o bj e ct s?
ac ts?
a cti v it ies?
ev en ts?
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
C an yo u
H ow d o e ve nts
H ow d o e ve nts
H ow a re ev en ts
H ow d o e ve nts
p la c es ev en ts
w ay s e ve nt s
w ay s e ve nt s
w ay s e ve nt s
d es c rib e in
o cc u r o ve r
in vo lv e the
re la ted to go als?
in vo lv e
o cc u r?
in co rp or a te
in co rp or a te
in co rp or a te
d et a il a ll the
tim e ? Is the re
v ar iou s a ct o rs?
o bj e ct s?
ac ts?
ac tiv it ies?
ev en ts ?
an y se q ue nc in g?
W he re do tim e
W ha t a re al l th e
H ow d o a cts fal l
H ow d o
H ow d o e ve nts
C an yo u
W he n ar e all the
H ow a re go al s
W he n ar e
p er iod s o cc ur ?
w ay s tim e
in to time
ac tiv it ies fa ll
fa ll in to tim e
d es c rib e in
tim e s a ctor s are
re la ted to time
fe el ing s
affe c ts ob je ct s?
p er iod s?
in to time
p er iod s?
d et a il a ll the
"o n stag e" ?
p er iod s?
ev ok ed ?
p er iod s?
A C TO R
G O AL
fe el ing s?
fe el ing s?
tim e p er iod s?
W he re do a ct o rs
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
H ow a re ac tors
H ow a re ac tors
H ow d o a ctor s
C an yo u
W hich ac tors
W ha t a re th e
p la c e
w ay s a ct o rs use
w ay s a ct o rs use
in vo lv ed in
in vo lv ed in
ch an ge o ve r
d es c rib e in
are lin k ed to
fe el ing s
th em se lv es ?
o bj e ct s?
ac ts?
ac tiv it ies?
ev en ts?
tim e o r a t
d et a il a ll the
w hich go al s?
ex pe rie nc ed by
d iff e re nt tim es?
a ct o rs?
ac to rs?
W he re are g oa ls
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a ct ivitie s
W ha t a re al l th e
W hich go als a re
H ow d o the
C an yo u
W ha t a re al l th e
so ug ht an d
w ay s g oa ls
w ay s g oa ls
are g oa l see ki n g
w ay s e ve nt s are
sc he du le d f or
v ar iou s g oa ls
d es c rib e in
w ay s g oa ls
ac hiev ed ?
in vo lv ed use o f
in vo lv e a ct s?
o r l ink ed to
link ed to go al s?
w hich tim es?
affe c t the
d et a il a ll the
ev ok e fe e li n gs?
v ar iou s a ct o rs?
g oa ls ?
o bj e ct s?
F E E L IN G
fe el ing s?
W ha t a re al l th e
g oa ls?
W he re do th e
W ha t fee li n gs
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re al l th e
H ow a re
W ha t a re al l th e
W ha t a re th e
C an yo u
v ar iou s f e elin g
le ad to th e u se
w ay s fee lin gs
w ay s fee lin gs
w ay s fee lin gs
fe el ing s rel a te d
w ay s fee lin gs
w ay s fee lin gs
d es c rib e in
stat e s o cc ur?
o f w ha t o bjec ts?
affe c t a cts?
affe c t a ctiv itie s?
affe c t e ve nts?
to v ar iou s t im e
in vo lv e a ct o rs?
in flu en ce go als?
d et a il a ll the
p er iod s?
fe el ing s?
Practice Exercise
– Observing at mall
Structured observation
always preceded by unstructured observations
Quantifiable record of behavior(s) or the
outcome(s) of behaviors collected by a
trained observer through the use of a
pre-coded or partly coded data instrument
Continuous Monitoring
behavioral stream
• behaviors observed in order, in context, get a sense
of flow, duration of behaviors
• prioritization, develop set of rules, focal actor (e.g.
child age 2-5 in the kitchen), & set of priorities in
relation to actor & other activities in order, develop
a sense of what comes first
• use codebook of “key behaviors” which are
behaviors you have identified & defined from
unstructured observations, Birdwhistell 1970
example lists body language
Continuous monitoring
– observer watches a
subject(s) for a specific
period of time &
records their behavior
as faithfully as
possible, following a
structured format with
time, location &
features of importance,
tend to observe for an
extended period of time
http://www.filmsdulosange.fr/kitchen-stories/
http://videodetective.com/home.asp?PublishedID=99843
spot check observations
observer appears at randomly selected
places/times and records people’s
activities when they are first
encountered, recording behaviors in
isolation from other behaviors (not part
of behavioral stream)
New York Times Sept 17, 1996
Rating observations
need to make a decision based on
observation about the presence or
absence of a particular feature or
abstract quality, often along some sort
of scale, may need judgment
Rating observations
clear definitions essential,
• Clean
• Dirty
Reliability
– clear operational definitions required,
considering all possibilities (determined
from key informant what if situations)
– need to train & standardize observers,
look at intra-observer consistence over
time, kappa or other measure
Reactivity (observer effect)
– record what you see (e.g. people eat
with their backs to you)
– ways to reduce:
• repeated observations
• extended visits
• interact or not (perhaps minimal interaction is best?)
Reactivity
identify reactive/non-reactive behaviors
– determine those behaviors which are highly
reactive & those that aren’t
– observing reactive behaviors is problematic
Continuous monitoring
Child feed / care and Xerophthalmia
Case-Control Study in Nepal 78 pairs aged 1-6 (hh with Vit. A Def.)
7 day-long (6a-8p) (blinded) continuous monitoring over 15 months, ≥2
months apart, recording key behaviors, one record per 5 min. (time,
location, actor (of behavior), recipient, behavior, food/quantity
Findings:
– Cases tended to receive food from another's already served food (? Small initial
servings, so child requests food from others, more 2nd helpings
– Large meal gatherings protective
– Child neglect during feeding and other aspects of child care and care giving
nurturing may directly influence quality of child's diet
Caregiver-child and child care behaviors more
important than intra-household food allocation
behavior in determining rural Nepali child's risk for
xerophthalmia
Participant Observation--> Int.
Participant Observation of homeless youth in SF
June-Sept. 1997, Castro District, San Francisco
Two 4-5 hour sessions a week during afternoons and
early evenings
Alternating week-end and weed-days to sample youth
in neighborhood at different times
"sitting on sidewalks with youth while they were
panhandling or selling goods and walking around
the site with a youth as they interacted with their
peers"
Included being ask to "move along" by police
Led to finding key informant and interviews
Observation Exercise
Observe segment of video (no sound)
Write continuous monitoring notes
Do not analyze, report what you see
Exercise #2
Visual information, not dialogue, or
description of etic events, explanations,
etc.
Coding
Develop a scheme:
Consider what are behaviors, observations,
events in the setting that are significant and
make up a mnemonic code (discuss with
team what elements will be) place in margin
– Bernard and in exercise
– Can modify afterwards
Discussed Session 7
Sampling
– samples are usually not random but
purposeful, or convenient
– could do a cluster sample exercise, if
wanted some element of randomness,
and could also observe at random times
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