A discussion of the role of participant observation to research

Observation of a field setting involves:

A discussion of the role of participant observation to research

User research consists of two core activities: But exactly what is observation, and what does it entail? Though we all know what the word observation means and everyone knows how to look and listen, there is more to it than just pointing your eyes in a particular direction, listening, and taking notes.

By doing a little research, I found many books and articles about interviewing, but surprisingly few about how to observe research participants.

Observational Research - Definition, Methods & Examples

Focusing on the key words and phrases in these definitions, we can see that observation involves the following: So observation is not passively looking and listening.

It requires careful, conscious, purposeful effort. We actively direct our attention to certain things, notice particular elements, process the information, and determine the significance of our learnings in answering specific questions. Types of Observation in User Research Observing human behavior is an important element of most user-research methods.

Observing human behavior is an important element of most user-research methods. Usability Testing Usability testing involves both observing and listening to participants as they attempt to complete tasks with a user interface. Contextual Inquiry Contextual inquiry means observing people in their natural environment, as they demonstrate their typical tasks.

A discussion of the role of participant observation to research

Research participants lead their own session, explaining what they are doing, but the primary value is in observing the details of the ways they normally perform their tasks.

In naturalistic observation, the researcher attempts to observe one or more people unobtrusively, without interacting with them. Shadowing In shadowing, the researcher follows participants around as they perform their daily activities.

The researcher may simply observe, without interacting with the participant, or a session may be more interactive, with participants talking about what they are doing and the researcher asking questions, similar to a contextual inquiry.

Covert Observation Covert observation is similar to naturalistic observation, but the researcher observes people without their knowing that they are being observed. Of course, you can ethically observe people covertly only in public places, where there is no expectation of privacy.

For example, you might observe what people do in an airport. The researcher observes and interacts with group members while performing the same activities. Several aspects of observation differ in these various methods of research.

The Role of Observation in User Research :: UXmatters Introduction This paper discusses online and offline observer roles in the study of open source software OSS development, cooperation and coordination. Methodologically, it positions itself in a grounded, ethnographic research tradition LIN,
What Is Observation? Introduction Participant observation, for many years, has been a hallmark of both anthropological and sociological studies. In recent years, the field of education has seen an increase in the number of qualitative studies that include participant observation as a way to collect information.
This role has to do with both the physical as well as the psychological or emotional distance between the observer and the observed, and can range from remote off-site observation to complete immersion and participation in the study activities. Broadly speaking, the observer is conducting either nonparticipant or participant observation.
What is Observational Research? Observational research or field research is a type of correlational i.
Introduction This paper discusses online and offline observer roles in the study of open source software OSS development, cooperation and coordination. Methodologically, it positions itself in a grounded, ethnographic research tradition LIN,

Location of the Observation In most of these research methods, the researcher visits participants in their natural environment to observe their natural behavior. The advantage of not interacting with participants at all is that you can observe their natural behavior.

So it may be more difficult to understand what participants are doing because you have to rely on assumptions—at least until you can ask them questions later. The disadvantage, however, is that this interaction can make the situation somewhat artificial.

RWJF - Qualitative Research Guidelines Project | Observation | Observation

Proximity to the Participant Seeing the details of tasks—such as what participants do with a user interface—requires that you sit very close to them. So sitting silently and pretending to be unobtrusive would be ridiculous in such a situation.

Seeing detailed tasks requires close proximity, so not interacting with participants at that distance would be unrealistic. At a greater distance, there is no social expectation that you maintain a conversation.

So you can introduce yourself, then try to be unobtrusive. After some initial awkwardness, participants are likely to relax, and you can observe their natural behavior. Again, to be ethical, you can do this only in a public place where there is no expectation of privacy.

In all of the other methods, participants consent to being part of a study, and this can affect their behavior. You can see how a normal day unfolds without introducing your own interruptions or influencing participants. Why Use Naturalistic Observation?

The Five Observer Roles in Ethnography There are many variations of observational research, both off-and online, but central to the ethnographic approach is the role of the observer. Trent Focus for Research and Development in Primary Health Care How to Use Observations in a Research Project Observation as a research method 2 Section 2: When and why should we use ethnographic methods? Describe what is involved in participant and non-participant observation, and the advantages of. This case study employed both offline and online observation, and it thus illustrates the role of the complete observer in an online setting and the role of the observer-as-participant in an offline setting.

Naturalistic observation is in wide use in anthropology and the social sciences because it lets researchers unobtrusively observe natural behavior over long periods of time.Aspects of observation discussed herein include various definitions of participant observation, some history of its use, the purposes for which such observation is used, the stances or roles of the observer, and additional information about when, what, and how to observe.

Participant observation and ethnography are probably the most stressful research methods for the researcher. People with whom one is interacting may make unreasonable demands.

As a participant, one may observe illegal behavior. Trent Focus for Research and Development in Primary Health Care How to Use Observations in a Research Project Observation as a research method 2 Section 2: When and why should we use ethnographic methods?

Describe what is involved in participant and non-participant observation, and the advantages of. Exploratory research to chart the dimensions of previously unstudied social settings and intensive investigations of the subjective meanings that motivate individual action are particularly well served by the techniques of participant observation, intensive interviewing, and focus groups.

For the remainder of this column, let’s take a closer look at a very useful, yet rarely used method of UX research: naturalistic observation. Why Use Naturalistic Observation? Naturalistic observation is in wide use in anthropology and the social sciences because it lets researchers unobtrusively observe natural behavior over long periods of time.

This case study employed both offline and online observation, and it thus illustrates the role of the complete observer in an online setting and the role of the observer-as-participant in an offline setting.

The Five Observer Roles in Ethnography | Research Design Review