Measuring a variable or set of variables as they exist naturally
Goal: Describe a single variable or obtain separate descriptions for each variable
Useful as preliminary research
Describes a phenomenon. Does NOT attempt to explain why the behavior occurs or the underlying causes.
Three descriptive research designs are covered in this chapter:
1) Observational research
2) Survey research
3) Case study research
Researcher observes and systematically records the behavior of individuals in order to describe the behavior
Behavioral observation is one technique or modality for measuring variables. As a modality of measurement, behavioral observation can be used with a variety of research strategies (e.g., correlational, experimental). When studies use behavioral observation simply for descriptive purposes, this is the observational research design.
Two main measurement problems in using behavioral observation:
1) Goal is to measure natural behavior, so observer must be careful to not disrupt the naturally occurring behavior. Can conceal the observer or habituate participants to the observer's presence.
2) Measurements must be based, to some extent, on subjective judgment of the observer, we must ask if the measurements are reliable. We must prepare list of behavior categories and specify exactly which behaviors qualify as instances of each category. This provides clear operational definitions. Then must establish inter-rater reliability.
Observational designs differ with respect to
1) Degree to which an observer intervenes
2) Way in which that behavior is recorded
Observation without intervention
Researcher observes and records behavior in a natural setting
--when participants modify their natural behavior because they are participating in research or because they know they are being observed and measured
2. controlling observer bias (single-blind
vs. double-blind research)
Content analysis uses techniques of behavioral observation
Archival research looks at historical records (archives)
A research study that uses a survey to obtain a description of a particular group of individuals
More on conducting surveys
IV. Case Study Design
An in-depth study and detailed description of a single individual (or very small group)...may involve an intervention or treatment administered by the researcher. When a case study does not include any treatment or intervention, it often is called a case history.
V. Research Strategies