Essay on observation method in social research
The method originated in field work of social anthropologists, especially the students of Franz Boas in the United States, and in the urban research of the Chicago School of sociology. Traditional participant observation is usually undertaken over an extended period of time, ranging from several months to many years, and even generations. Observable details like daily time allotment and more hidden details like taboo behavior are more easily observed and interpreted over a longer period of time. A strength of observation and interaction over extended periods of time is that researchers can discover discrepancies between what participants say—and often believe—should happen the formal system and what actually does happen, or between different aspects of the formal system; in contrast, a one-time survey of people's answers to a set of questions might be quite consistent, but is less likely to show conflicts between different aspects of the social system or between conscious representations and behavior.
Field research lies at the heart of archaeological research. It may include the undertaking of broad area surveys including aerial surveys ; of more localised site surveys including photographic, drawn , and geophysical surveys, and exercises such as fieldwalking ; and of excavation. In biology , field research typically involves studying of free-living wild animals in which the subjects are observed in their natural habitat , without changing, harming, or materially altering the setting or behavior of the animals under study.
Field research is an indispensable part of biological science. Knowledge about animal migrations is essential to accurately determining the size and location of protected areas. In geology fieldwork is considered an essential part of training  and remains an important component of many research projects. In other disciplines of the Earth and atmospheric sciences , field research refers to field experiments such as the VORTEX projects utilizing in situ instruments.
Research Methodology: Exploratory, Descriptive and Explanatory
Permanent observation networks are also maintained for other uses but are not necessarily considered field research, nor are permanent remote sensing installations. The objective of field research in economics is to get beneath the surface, to contrast observed behaviour with the prevailing understanding of a process, and to relate language and description to behavior e. Deirdre McCloskey , The Nobel Prize Winners in Economics, Elinor Ostrom and Oliver Williamson , have advocated mixed methods and complex approaches in economics and hinted implicitly to the relevance of field research approaches in economics.
They believe that policymakers need to give local people a chance to shape the systems used to allocate resources and resolve disputes. Sometimes, Ostrom points out, local solutions can be the most efficient and effective options. This is a point of view that fits very well with anthropological research, which has for some time shown us the logic of local systems of knowledge — and the damage that can be done when "solutions" to problems are imposed from outside or above without adequate consultation. Elinor Ostrom, for example, combines field case studies and experimental lab work in her research.
Using this combination, she contested longstanding assumptions about the possibility that groups of people could cooperate to solve common pool problems as opposed to being regulated by the state or governed by the market. Edward J. Nell argued in that there are two types of field research in economics. One kind can give us a carefully drawn picture of institutions and practices, general in that it applies to all activities of a certain kind of particular society or social setting, but still specialized to that society or setting. Although institutions and practices are intangibles, such a picture will be objective, a matter of fact, independent of the state of mind of the particular agents reported on.
Approaching the economy from a different angle, another kind of fieldwork can give us a picture of the state of mind of economic agents their true motivations, their beliefs, state knowledge, expectations, their preferences and values. In public health , the use of the term field research refers to epidemiology or the study of epidemics through the gathering of data about the epidemic such as the pathogen and vector s as well as social or sexual contacts, depending upon the situation.
Mintzberg played a crucial role in the popularization of field research in management. The tremendous amount of work that Mintzberg put into the findings earned him the title of leader of a new school of management, the descriptive school, as opposed to the prescriptive and normative schools that preceded his work.
Simon , and others endeavored to prescribe and expound norms to show what managers must or should do. With the arrival of Mintzberg, the question was no longer what must or should be done, but what a manager actually does during the day. More recently, in his book Managers Not MBAs, Mintzberg examined what he believes to be wrong with management education today. Aktouf , p. On the contrary, it is fragmented, irregular, choppy, extremely changeable and variable. This work is also marked by brevity: no sooner has a manager finished one activity than he or she is called up to jump to another, and this pattern continues nonstop.
Comprehensive Essay on Importance and Uses of Observation Method in Social Sciences
Rather, it is an unbroken series of reactions to all sorts of request that come from all around the manager, from both the internal and external environments. Third, the manager deals with the same issues several times, for short periods of time; he or she is far from the traditional image of the individual who deals with one problem at a time, in a calm and orderly fashion.
Fourth, the manager acts as a focal point, an interface, or an intersection between several series of actors in the organization: external and internal environments, collaborators, partners, superiors, subordinates, colleagues, and so forth. He or she must constantly ensure, achieve, or facilitate interactions between all these categories of actors to allow the firm to function smoothly.
Pierre Bourdieu played a crucial role in the popularization of fieldwork in sociology.
During the Algerian War in —, Bourdieu undertook ethnographic research into the clash through a study of the Kabyle people a subgroup of the Berbers , which provided the groundwork for his anthropological reputation. A follow-up, Algeria The Disenchantment of the World: The Sense of Honour: The Kabyle House or the World Reversed: Essays , published in English in by Cambridge University Press , established him as a major figure in the field of ethnology and a pioneer advocate scholar for more intensive fieldwork in social sciences. The book was based on his decade of work as a participant-observer with Algerian society.
One of the outstanding qualities of his work has been his innovative combination of different methods and research strategies as well as his analytical skills in interpreting the obtained data.
Throughout his career, Bourdieu sought to connect his theoretical ideas with empirical research, grounded in everyday life. His work can be seen as sociology of culture. Bourdieu labeled it a "theory of practice". His contributions to sociology were both empirical and theoretical. His conceptual apparatus is based on three key terms, namely, habitus , capital and field. Furthermore, Bourdieu fiercely opposed rational choice theory as grounded in a misunderstanding of how social agents operate.
Bourdieu argued that social agents do not continuously calculate according to explicit rational and economic criteria. According to Bourdieu, social agents operate according to an implicit practical logic—a practical sense—and bodily dispositions. Social agents act according to their "feel for the game" the "feel" being, roughly, habitus, and the "game" being the field. Bourdieu's anthropological work was focused on the analysis of the mechanisms of reproduction of social hierarchies. Bourdieu criticized the primacy given to the economic factors, and stressed that the capacity of social actors to actively impose and engage their cultural productions and symbolic systems plays an essential role in the reproduction of social structures of domination.
Bourdieu's empirical work played a crucial role in the popularization of correspondence analysis and particularly multiple correspondence analysis. Bourdieu held that these geometric techniques of data analysis are, like his sociology, inherently relational.
In the preface to his book The Craft of Sociology , Bourdieu argued that: "I use Correspondence Analysis very much, because I think that it is essentially a relational procedure whose philosophy fully expresses what in my view constitutes social reality. It is a procedure that 'thinks' in relations, as I try to do it with the concept of field. By observing the subjects in their natural setting the classroom where they work and learn each and every day , the researchers can get a better look at the behavior of interest as they occur in the real world.
So what are some of the reasons why psychologists might want to use naturalistic observation as part of their research? One of the biggest advantages of this type of research is that it allows the investigators to directly observe the subject in a natural setting. This gives scientists a first-hand look at social behavior and may even allow them to notice things that they might never have encountered in a lab.
Observation Methods - Naturalistic, Participant and Controlled | Simply Psychology
Such observations can serve as inspiration for further investigations into particular behaviors. The information gleaned from naturalistic observation may also lead to insights that can help people overcome problems and lead to healthier, happier lives. While naturalistic observation can be useful in many cases, this method also has some potential downsides that must be considered.
One of the disadvantages of naturalistic observation includes the fact that it can be difficult to determine the exact cause of a behavior and the experimenter cannot control for outside variables. Researchers may utilize a number of different techniques to collect data from naturalistic observation. This might involve writing down the number of times a certain behavior occurred in a specific period of time or making an actual video-recording of the subjects of interest.
The goal is to make sure that this sample of data is representative of the subject's overall behavior. Let's imagine that you want to study differences in risk-taking behavior between teenage boys and girls. You might choose to observe behavior in a few different settings, such as on a sledding hill, a rock-climbing wall, an ice-skating rink, and a bumper car ride. After you operationally define "risk-taking behavior," you would then observe teens in these settings and record every incidence of what you define as risky behavior.
Ever wonder what your personality type means? Sign up to find out more in our Healthy Mind newsletter. More in Psychology. Some other advantages of naturalistic observation:. It allows researchers to study things that cannot be manipulated in a lab due to ethical concerns. For example, while it would be unethical to study the effects of imprisonment by actually confining subjects, researchers can gather information by using naturalistic observation in real prison settings.
It can help support the external validity of the research. It is one thing to say that the findings of a lab study will generalize to a larger population, but quite another to actually observe those findings occurring in a natural setting. Some other disadvantages of naturalistic observation:. People may behave differently when they know they are being watched.
Sometimes people try to behave better than they normally would in order to appear more socially desirable or acceptable. Researchers can make efforts to avoid this, but it can be difficult to eliminate this problem entirely. As a result of these demand characteristics, participants may alter their behavior in order to go along with what they think the researchers want.