Unobtrusive research
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Unobtrusive Research. Studying social life without affecting the it in the process. Unobtrusive research methods can be quantitative or qualitative. These methods allow researchers to study things from afar without influencing the process.

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Unobtrusive Research

Studying social life without affecting the it in the process


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  • Unobtrusive research methods can be quantitative or qualitative.

  • These methods allow researchers to study things from afar without influencing the process.

    • This can eliminate or minimize many of the threats to the validity of research, including reactivity and social desirability bias.


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Content Analysis

  • Studying human social life through the examination of artifacts

  • Common artifacts for analysis include magazine ads, books, television shows, bathroom graffiti, trash

  • Same approach as with any research project:

    • Definition of interest(s) and problem, conceptualization, operationalizing

    • Development of means by which you’ll collect the data Sampling design

    • Data collection and analysis.


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Manifest Content Coding

  • Analogous to survey data collection

  • Establish variables and attributes – record what is present in each artifact – ready for data entry

  • Clarify units of analysis and observation

  • Establish a base of counting for comparison

    • Generally code a sample of all editorials so you have a base for comparing to your findings about environmental editorials.


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Latent Content Coding

  • Analogous to analysis of qualitative data

  • Look for the meaning underlying signs, symbols, language

    • subjective interpretation

  • You may begin inductively; looking for themes


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Strengths of Content Analysis

  • Time and money savings

  • Safety net – can return to source to recheck data

  • One mechanism for longitudinal analysis

  • Unobtrusive – research won’t contaminate research setting


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Weaknesses of Content Analysis

  • Limited to recorded communication

  • Potential for excellent reliability

  • Check and recheck source

  • Validity varies based partially on whether you are coding latent or manifest content


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Analyzing Existing Statistics

  • As backdrop to a study

  • As the main data to a study

  • Validity;

    • Have to make due with the types of data provided; logic and replication help with dealing with validity problems

  • Reliability;

    • Depend on the quality of the data itself

    • How was the data collected?


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Historical/Comparative Analysis

  • Much of the classic sociological work involves historical/comparative analysis

    • Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Comte, Martineau, Du Bois

  • Sources of data; usually a qualitative data analysis process, but not always

    • Existing historical accounts and analysis

    • Raw data such as diaries, newspapers, magazines, public documents


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  • Validity of Data

  • Question the accuracy of documents; triangulate (corroborate)

  • Is the source of your data perhaps biased in some way?


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