Qualitative observation research
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Qualitative & Observation Research. Conducting Focus Group Interviews. Focus Group Interviews. Unstructured, free-flowing interviews with small groups of people. Consists of Moderator or interviewer 6 to 10 participants Note taker

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Qualitative & Observation Research

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Qualitative observation research

Qualitative & Observation Research

Conducting focus group interviews

Conducting Focus Group Interviews

Focus group interviews

Focus Group Interviews

  • Unstructured, free-flowing interviews with small groups of people.

  • Consists of

    • Moderator or interviewer

    • 6 to 10 participants

    • Note taker

  • Moderator introduces topic and encourages group members to discuss the subject amongst themselves.

  • Allow people to discuss their true feelings in their own words

Advantages of focus group interviews

Advantages of Focus Group Interviews

  • Relatively fast

  • Easy to execute

  • Inexpensive

  • Numerous topics can be discussed (unlike surveys)

  • Multiple insights can be gained

Drawbacks of focus group interviews

Drawbacks of Focus Group Interviews

  • Require sensitive and effective moderators

    • Without such, self-appointed participants may dominate a session

    • Halo effect on attitudes toward the concept or topic of discussion may occur, if group reacts negatively to a dominant member

  • Participants may not be representative of the population of interest.

Requirements for effective focus groups

Requirements for Effective Focus Groups

  • Six to ten participants

  • Carefully screen participants

    • Want people who have knowledge about the topic at hand

  • Homogeneous participants in terms of some characteristic under study

  • Relaxed atmosphere

  • If possible, room with one-way mirror and audio- and video-recording capabilities

  • Session duration around one hour

  • Trained moderator

  • Compensate for participation

7 habits of effective moderators

7 Habits of Effective Moderators

  • Establish personal contact with each respondent early

  • Help respondents feel relaxed early on

  • Win respondents to your side

  • Deal with loud respondents; but don’t intimidate other respondents

    • Don’t look at them when you ask questions

    • Don’t acknowledge their raised hands

  • Deal with inconsistent, unclear answers by mobilizing the group to help

  • Create an environment where anything a respondent wants to say is acceptable

  • Don’t assume you know what a respondent means by an ambiguous answer

When not to use focus groups

When NOT to use Focus Groups

  • Emotionally charged environment

  • Researcher has lost control over critical aspects of the study

  • Statistical projections are needed

  • Other methodologies can produce better quality information

  • Other methodologies can produce more economical information of the same quality

  • Researcher cannot ensure the confidentiality of sensitive information

Types of focus group questions

Types of Focus Group Questions

  • Opening Question

    • Round robin question

    • Designed to be answered rather quickly

    • Designed to identify characteristics participants have in common

    • Preferably factual (rather than attitude or opinions)

  • Introductory Question

    • Introduce general topic of discussion

  • Key Questions

    • 2 to 5 max

    • The questions you really want answers to

  • Ending Questions

    • Bring closure to the discussion. Most common is the summary question

Some things to consider

Some Things to Consider

  • Avoid Dichotomous Questions

    • Questions answerable with a “yes” or “no”

  • Avoid asking “Why”

    • Has a sharpness or pointedness that reminds one of interrogations

  • Asked Uncued Questions first; Cued Questions second

    • Uncued: Open-ended; usually based on recent experiences or impressions

    • Cued: Questions that specify some topic or aspect of a topic

Scientific observation is systematic

Scientific Observation Is Systematic



Sherlock Holmes

What is observation research

What is Observation Research?

  • The systematic process of recording the behavioral patterns of people, objects, and occurrences as they are witnessed.

  • No questioning or communicating with people typically occurs.

  • “Where observation is concerned, chance favors only the prepared mind.”

    • Louis Pasteur

What can be observed

What Can Be Observed

Phenomena Example

Human behavior or physical Shoppers movement

actionpattern in a store

Verbal behaviorStatements made by

airline travelers who wait

in line

Expressive behaviorFacial expressions, tone of

voice, and other form of

body language

What can be observed1

What Can Be Observed


Spatial relationsHow close visitors at an

and locationsart museum stand to paintings

Temporal patternsHow long fast-food customers

wait for their order to be served

Physical objectsWhat brand name items are

stored in consumers’ pantries

Verbal and Pictorial Bar codes on product packages


Categories of observation

Categories of Observation

  • Human versus mechanical

  • Visible versus hidden

  • Direct

Visible vs hidden observation

Visible vs. Hidden Observation

  • Visible Observation

    • Observer’s presence is known to the subject.

  • Hidden Observation

    • Subject is unaware that observation is taking place.

    • Minimizes respondent error

Direct observation

Direct Observation

  • Straightforward attempt to observe and record what naturally occurs

  • The investigator does not create an artificial situation

    • Observer Bias

      • Distortion of measurement resulting from the cognitive behavior or actions of a witnessing observer

    • Response Latency

Response latency

Response Latency

  • Recording the decision time necessary to make a choice between two alternatives

  • It is presumed to indicate the strength of preference between alternatives.

Observation of human behavior benefits

Observation of Human BehaviorBenefits

  • Communication with respondent not necessary

  • No distortions due to self-report (e.g.: no social desirability) bias

  • No need to rely on respondents’ memory

  • Nonverbal behavior data may be obtained

Observation of human behavior benefits1

Observation of Human BehaviorBenefits

  • Certain data may be obtained more quickly

  • Environmental conditions may be recorded

  • May be combined with survey to provide supplemental evidence

Observation of human behavior limitations

Observation of Human BehaviorLimitations

  • Cognitive phenomena cannot be observed

  • Interpretation of data may be a problem

  • Not all activity can be recorded

  • Only short periods can be observed

  • Observer bias possible

  • Possible invasion of privacy

Observation of physical objects

Observation of Physical Objects

  • Physical-trace evidence

    • Wear and tear of a book indicates how often it has been read

Content analysis

Content Analysis

  • Obtains data by observing and analyzing the content of advertisements, letters, articles, etc.

  • Deals with the study of the message itself

  • Measures the extent of emphasis or omission

Mechanical observation

Mechanical Observation

  • Traffic Counters

  • Web Traffic

  • Scanners

  • Physiological Measures

Physiological reactions

Physiological Reactions

  • Eye tracking

  • Pupilometer

  • Psychogalvanometer

  • Voice pitch

Eye tracking monitors

Eye Tracking Monitors

  • Measure unconscious eye movements

  • Record how the subject actually reads or views an advertisement



  • Device observes and records changes in the diameter of the subject’s pupils.



  • Measures galvanic skin response

    • Involuntary changes in electrical resistance of the skin

  • Assumption:

    • physiological changes accompany emotional reactions

Voice pitch analysis

Voice Pitch Analysis

  • Measures emotional reactions through physiological changes in a person’s voice

Measuring physiological reactions problems

Measuring Physiological Reactions Problems

  • No strong theoretical evidence supports argument that physiological change is valid measure of future sales, attitude change, or emotional response

  • Calibration (or sensitivity) of the measuring devices

    • Identifying arousal is one thing

    • Precisely measuring levels of arousal is another

Measuring physiological reactions problems1

Measuring Physiological Reactions Problems

  • Expense of the measuring devices

  • Subjects usually are place in artificial surroundings and know they are being observed

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