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Observation. Qualitative Data & Field Research. What Is It?. Direct observation of behavior (as opposed to self-reporting), in-depth interviewing, case studies, etc Less structured than surveys & experiments Common in anthropology

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Observation l.jpg

Observation

Qualitative Data & Field Research


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What Is It?

  • Direct observation of behavior (as opposed to self-reporting), in-depth interviewing, case studies, etc

  • Less structured than surveys & experiments

  • Common in anthropology

  • Also used in sociology &, to a lesser extent, political science


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Some Political Science Applications

  • Organizational studies (political parties, Congress, interest groups)

  • Policy analysis (needs, impacts)

  • Studies of political thinking (e.g. R. Dahl)


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Types

  • Participant v. nonparticipant

  • Covert v. overt


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Tools

  • Frameworks (“observation schedules”)

    • lists of variables to be examined

    • lists of behaviors to be noted

  • Tape recorders

  • Field notes (recorded at periodic intervals)


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Some Concerns

  • Reliability (findings can be hard to reproduce)

    • Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa

      • 1920s

      • Sexual freedom (permissiveness?)

      • Few problems in transition to adulthood

    • Derek Freeman, another viewpoint on Samoa

      • 1980s

      • Sexual behavior very similar to Australian

      • Same problems in transition to adulthood as are found in Australia


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Some Concerns, cont.

  • Ethics

    • “spying” on subjects

    • adverse effects on subjects

    • observer being pressured into unethical behavior

    • etc.


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