Describe the Key Purpose of Observation, Outlining Advantages and Disadvantages of This Research Approach to Collecting Data - Essay Prowess

Describe the Key Purpose of Observation, Outlining Advantages and Disadvantages of This Research Approach to Collecting Data

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Task 1

Describe the Key Purpose of Observation, Outlining Advantages and Disadvantages of This Research Approach to Collecting Data

Participant observation is a data collection method that gathers information regarding processes and people in their natural environment. Since the method does not require technical knowledge, researchers view it as the simplest method of collecting data. According to Sekaran and Bougie (2016), the method uses a qualitative approach of data collection and analysis in a natural setting. Participant observation plays an important role when researching since it allows the researcher to observe the behavior of respondents without any form of manipulation. This method of data collection revolves around behaviors and artefacts in a natural setting as well as a systematic description of events in a given research. Participant observation allows researchers to understand existing situations by applying the five senses of the study question or the phenomenon under research.

Participant observation has several benefits over other methods of collecting data. The method gives the researcher a detailed description of the study question hence assisting the researcher in understanding the situations and behaviors surrounding the phenomenon more clearly (Johnson, et al. 2011). Moreover, participant observation enables the researcher to view participants in unscheduled events. Additionally, this facilitates the formulation of a new hypothesis and research questions. The quality of data is improved as well as its interpretation. (Sekaran and Bougie 2016). Observation provides a real-world aspect of the research hypothesis, and this also helps the researcher in rounding research. The researcher, therefore, gets a better description of the respondents involved. Nonetheless, this makes the process less hypothetical in comparison to other approaches. Instead of making assumptions and predictions of a research’s expectations, participant observation presents an opportunity for the researcher to observe real events or situations. This, makes the method authenticate, with actual results.

Despite the advantages highlighted above, participant observation also has some disadvantages such as; researchers may lack interest in situations that happen in the public’s eye or under the natural setting. Therefore, they may have to rely on key informants for data collection. Based on the participants involved, a researcher may be contravened in the manner in which they draw conclusions based on what they observe in research (Saunders, et al., 2016). Subsequent interpretations and the representation of key events may be a problem when using participant observation. Additionally, this may happen more often in cases where the researcher selects community leaders or marginal participants as key informants or also in cases where they have a close relationship to the participants involved. Suen and Ary (2014) noted that in behavioral research, participant observation might be a significant source for erroneous description. Nevertheless, this means that the observed information may not represent the data collected by researchers or the required information by the investigator’s interest based on the setting or behavior. The natural setting may contain different information from the observed information in some cases.

Discuss Four Dimensions That Distinguish Various Approaches to Observation

Controlled vs. Uncontrolled Observation Studies

Observations can be done in natural or artificial settings, although they have their differences. However, observations should be conducted in a natural setting. In some cases, observations are done in an experimental or controlled setting as a method of data collection. In controlled experiments, participant observation research is high since the researcher can manipulate the research (Saunders, et al. 2016). In an uncontrolled study, the researcher exposes participants in a certain situation or condition. The researcher then observes the differences between their reactions and behaviors in the given condition. However, in controlled observations, the observations are carried out in an experimental or laboratory setting such as in the field or a simulated store.

Controlled observations are mostly conducted when observational research is done in a situation which is carefully controlled. However, uncontrolled observations happen in situations where the researcher does not make any effort to control, influence or manipulate the condition. In these settings, events take place in a natural setting and therefore, the researcher observes them without interfering with real-world conditions (Suen and Ary 2014). One of the key benefits for uncontrolled observations is their ability to be conducted in their natural setting, for instance, their workstation. They are, however, disadvantageous in the fact that the researcher lacks the means for controlling any situation. Therefore, any situation in these studies is not easily solvable or manageable. This makes it difficult for the researcher to understand the behaviors, actions and events of participants.

Participant vs. Nonparticipant Observation

Researchers can play the role of a participant or nonparticipant observer in observational research. During nonparticipant observations, the researchers lack direct involvement in the actions and behaviors of the participants. The scholar in the exterior visual horizon observes nonparticipants. Participant observation is implemented in various researches (Wood, and Kinser-Traut 2017). Additionally, when using this study, the researcher collects data by getting involved in the participant’s life, the organization or the group under investigation. However, participation levels are different depending on the condition at hand. Complete participation is the highest level of participation which involves the researcher as a member of the group or organization under research. This participation intends to enhance a better understanding of the group or organization based on an insider’s point of view (Hammersley 2007). For instance, Beynon worked with Form Motor organization as a member of the company under investigation. Active participation involves the interaction and engagement of the researcher with all the activities of the study participants. Moderate participation is another participation level which happens in situations where the researcher gets involved with the group or organization partly and also interacts with the participants occasionally. Passive participation is the lowest participation level (Kawulich 2005). The researcher collects information and does not get involved with the group.

Structured vs. Unstructured Observation Studies

A structured study occurs in situations where the researcher has organized particular activities or set of actions for observation (Howitt, and Cramer 2003). During such instances, recording formats can be tailored or designed specifically for each study to ensure that they fit the study objective. Therefore, structured studies are considered to be quantitative in nature. For instance, structured research can be used to note matters relating to the environment, such as a change in settings or labor conditions. Unstructured observation, on the other hand, is part of the qualitative research, which involves observing events in real-time. Unstructured research may also be included in a plan or other forms of exploratory research (Palaiologou, 2014). Unstructured research functions as the main pillar of qualitative research. On the other hand, unstructured observation may lead to a set of hypotheses which are deductive in nature.

Concealed v Unconcealed Observation

In a concealed observation, it is important to inform participants on the procedure of conducting the study and ensuring that they are aware that they are under investigation. The main benefit of a concealed observation study is that the research subjects or the respondents do not have any concerns about being observed or investigated (Sekaran, and Bougie 2016). In contrast, unconcealed observation tends to be the opposite of concealed observation, considering that it is more obtrusive since the participants are not aware that they are under investigation. The Hawthorne effect is a perfect example of upsets in the authenticity of subject responses in an unconcealed observation. A concealed observation can happen when researchers disguise themselves as shoppers to collect information on the strategies used by salespeople to succeed in their business (Sekaran, and Bougie 2016). Therefore, researchers prefer using concealed observation to avoid upsetting participants who may impact the authenticity of the findings.

A Disadvantage Of Observation Is Observer Bias. Discuss At Least Two Ways of Minimizing Observer Bias

Researchers tend to discount the information collected in the initial days of gathering information using the observation method, especially when the information seems to differ from what the researcher observes later on. Therefore, such data is considered to be prone to observer bias from an investigator’s perspective. Such an occurrence happens when there is a faded or absent respondent observation due to the role of the researcher in the group or when the researcher goes native, and the subjects take over (Mahtani, et al. 2018). This leads to flawed or biased accounts, for instance, this can happen when the researcher is recording errors, especially in cases where they are interpreting non-verbal cues, behaviors, events and tasks. Additionally, the observer can be afflicted by observation of daily events over long periods of time, and this could lead to biases, especially when the observations are being recorded.

Biases which happen when recording observations can be reduced using various ways, for instance a researcher can receive training on the methods to utilize when observing and the events they can record. Nonetheless, researchers acquire inter-observer reliability which is an effective component of observational studies. The reliability of inter-observers can also be achieved when training the observers using videotapes. The most effective formula for achieving reliability coefficient is to divide the number of agreements by the numbers of trainee’s disagreements and agreements (Little, 2012).

Another way to mitigate observer bias is to educate observers on the roles of an ‘outsider’ and ‘insider’. The observer has to train on the dual roles whereas an insider, they observe the events from the participant’s point of view and as an outsider, and they observe the events with an objective while having a value-free and conscious mind. Having a dual perspective enables the observer to bolster data credibility by internalizing the respondent’s meaning while determining the possibility of observer bias by being non-judgmental. Onsite observation requires the researcher to have a particular degree of ‘acting’. This skill enables them to have the abilities to blend in with the research phenomenon and to avoid behaving contrary to the events they are observing (Little, 2012). Observers who blend well with others are likely not to change in a distorting manner, and they are less bias with what they objectively observe. The acting skills of an observer conceal their identity to their participants. To minimize observer bias in covert participation or observation, the researcher needs to choose observers who completely accept the idea of deception or the covert role while working with the respondents to avoid interference with the credibility of data as they gather information for the study.

Observer bias can be minimized when observers are involved in constant evaluation. The observer has a responsibility of engaging themselves in detailed and constant self-evaluation by engaging in activities such as keeping a reflexive journal about the changes around them and the observations they do. Moreover, this a critical tool for formulating an observer’s conclusions about the research, thus improving the research credibility through self-critique and disclosure.

Provide a Critical Evaluation of the Ethics of Using Concealed Observation as a Research Method

It is important to note that researches that are founded on a natural setting should make sure that they protect the privacy and the psychological wellbeing of participants. Therefore, this makes ethical consideration an important aspect of complete observational research. When conducting a concealed observation, the researcher should consider certain aspects of the culture and local values of the participants. This is important since concealed observations may affect the privacy of respondents who may think that they are not under investigation.

A researcher has to observe the ethical principle of beneficence, which means that they have a professional mandate to carry out research significantly to protect the welfare of the participants. Lack of adequate beneficence can lead to immense ethical issues if the research findings prove not to be as successful as expected (Jahn 2011). The observer has to consider all the possible consequences in a study and balance potential risks with the expected benefits. If a researcher finds out that the risks outweigh the potential benefits, then they need to reconsider the strategies for undertaking the research.

Informed consent should be implemented in observational research since it protects the autonomy of the participants. Informed consent incorporates the rights of the respondents through self-determination. Moreover, it prevents the researcher from assaulting the integrity of the respondent, thus protecting their personal liberty instead (Marshall 2007). Individuals make informed decisions to enable them to participate in research voluntarily. The researcher has to inform the participants about the methods for protecting confidentiality and autonomy. Therefore, participation is voluntary. Informed consent is crucial at the beginning of a study and especially during the introduction, where an explanation of how the participants were selected, and the procedures followed was done. At this point, the researcher has to address how possible risks or threats will be catered for or how the participants will be compensated in case of anything. Nonetheless, research subjects should be made aware of the benefits they are acquiring personally and to the research. The main parts of consent, which include disclosure, voluntariness, competency and comprehension, have to be adhered to when addressing the participants.

Beneficence rights are highly connected to the issues of anonymity and confidentiality. In observational research, the researcher needs to manage the privacy of the information received to protect the participant’s identity. Confidentiality means that the respondent is free to withhold or give information to a person of their choosing; in this case, the observer. The researcher has the mandate to protect the confidentiality of an individual beyond the ordinary levels of loyalty (Hennink, et al., 2020). Ethical considerations call for the researcher to be aware of the social and psychological implications of the participants if there is a breach of confidentiality. Therefore, a researcher needs to inform the respondents about their rights before beginning the research. In addition to this, the researcher has to use the possible coding systems for each case to enhance confidentiality.

In a research context, when participants believe that they are not under observation, this may be influenced by an assumption that this is due to the expectations of the researcher. Therefore, it is important to make sure that an investigator complies with the social desirability aspects that influence the respondent’s behavior to ensure they meet their expectations. Additionally, there are ethical pitfalls that feature observational research due to a well-recognized concern in the study. Some researchers focus on representing and experiencing the life of a disadvantaged participant without alerting them that they are being studied. This is, therefore, a challenge to the ethical restrictions put in place for observational research, especially in the concealed observation method.

Studies which may be connected with deviant human actions or which may stigmatize the respondent are considered to be sensitive (Jahn 2011). Therefore, if the participants are not informed that such studies are being conducted, the researcher may be deemed unethical since they research without observing ethical restrictions, and this may lead to privacy issues. Moreover, this is a breach of privacy which could break the trust issues between the researcher and the respondents. The researcher has to protect the views of the participants. This includes their personal information such as the income, marital status and other details that are regarded as intimate. In observational research, the researcher needs to consider all ethics to protect their subjects from potential psychological, social and physical threats during and after the research.

Part 2

Advancements in technology have helped data gathering via online survey questionnaires? Discuss the mechanisms that can be used to administer online questionnaires and outline the advantages and disadvantages that may occur.

Among the primary methods for collecting data from the internet include using web-based and email surveys. Characteristics of these surveys include; completion of questionnaires through the internet and invitation of participants who are involved in the surveys. The web has been a crucial tool for conducting research, and many researchers have used it to gather information for their studies across the world. Therefore, online surveys have been considered as the best ways to collect necessary information from research participants compared to other survey methods.

Advantages

Online surveys have various advantages. They include; the researcher can collect data from multiple individuals from all over the world with ease. If a researcher requires more participants from other parts of the globe, they can provide web-based surveys through emails, which will help these individuals to participate in the research. Another advantage is that conducting online surveys is cheap and fast. The researcher can send questionnaires through emails or web-based questionnaires which are more affordable when compared to other data collection methods (Guest 2013). Online surveys are also efficient in that they allow the participants to respond through the web. Survey databases are used to store the error-free feedbacks.

Furthermore, online surveys have a faster response rate since they can be answered in private and at the convenience of the respondent, thus giving them high confidence levels to answer to the best of their ability. Another benefit of online surveys is that they enhance the design flexibility of the survey questions which can appeal to both researchers and respondents. Online surveys provide real-time results. As soon as the participant is done with the questionnaire, the researcher can view the responses and analyze them. This allows the researcher to address significant points quickly and to tabulate data in the required formats with ease. Another significant advantage of online surveys is that the researcher can be more selective with his/her audience (Wright 2005). The participants can be pre-screened such that only individuals who fit the researcher’s profile complete the survey.

Online surveys are opportunities for people to imprint their ideas or brands in the user’s mind. Through an online survey, an individual can remind the user of the benefits they provide. Moreover, a survey can be styled to customize a website with backgrounds such as images, re-direct pages and a URL of the survey. The fact that a survey saves time makes the researcher increase their productivity (Hai-Jew 2015). Data from surveys is instantly available for transfer to spreadsheets and statistical software for analysis.

Disadvantages

One of the limitations of using online surveys is that they lack the presence of the interviewer. Therefore, they cannot be relied on for open-ended questions due to lack of trained personnel who can guide the participants if they have any difficulties completing the survey (Guest 2013). Online surveys lack the ability to interact and reach respondents. This makes them unsuitable for areas which lack adequate internet access for instance, people in remote areas lack good internet, and this hinders them from participating in an online survey effectively. The surveys are also not suitable for the elderly, who may not know how to use the internet.

Dishonesty can be an issue with online surveys (Wright 2005). Respondents may fail to be truthful with the answers they give. Furthermore, this can happen due to various reasons including; social desirability and the attempt of individuals to protect privacy. However, dishonesty can be curbed by assuring the privacy and confidentiality of research participants. Although online surveys are fast, they may have unanswered questions. A respondent may ignore specific questions if the answers may take longer to think or write, or if the questions are hard. It is therefore up to the researcher to set up questions which will be easily attended to (Wright 2005). A survey questionnaire cannot capture the emotions of the participants. The interview does not have a way to observe expressions, body language and reactions. These subtleties are essential for adding extra information.

Explain the Principles of Wording, Stating How These are Important in Questionnaire Design, Citing Examples Not in The Book. 

The wording principles are vital factors to consider when designing a questionnaire such that respondents can read it easily. Several elements need consideration. They include; using conformance content questions, the level of the language used when designing the questionnaire and how questions are asked (Sekaran, and Bougie 2016). Other elements that need to be considered include the type of questions, the form of questions asked and how the questions are presented. The personal data that is sought from the participant is also a major consideration when designing the questionnaire.

The Goals and Content of the Questions

When formulating the questionnaire, it is important to consider the type of questions asked as Noble and Smith (2015) explains. Therefore, as long as the variables are subjective in nature, such as the levels of engagement and the satisfaction levels, the participants will measure the perceptions, attitudes of the elements and the questionnaire dimensions. Furthermore, it is also important to consider the purpose of the questions when designing the questionnaire to ensure effective measurement of the variables.

Language Used

The language that is understood by the participants should be highly considered when formulating a questionnaire. In some cases, the researcher uses the language that is familiar to them rather than the respondents. Therefore, the choice of words should fit the participant’s level of education (Sekaran, and Bougie 2016). Additionally, the idioms and terms used should reflect the framework of the participants and their culture as well (Noble and Smith 2015). If participants of a particular culture commonly use the English language, it should be used in the questionnaire since using other foreign languages hinder the respondents from participating in the study.

Type of Questions

The questionnaire design should feature either closed or open types of questions. Open questions allow the participants to give answers in the best way possible. However, for the closed questions, they are used in designs which (Noble and Smith 2015). A successful questionnaire is, therefore, formulated in a manner that includes both negative and positive questions. The formulated questions should not be too negative since they confuse the participants. Therefore, it is important to reduce the excessive use of negative words such as no. Double negatives should be avoided at all costs. These are questions that are based negatively. For instance, “it is not okay to issue your homework on time”. The respondent may choose to ignore these questions or the survey itself since they would have to give unreliable data. In some cases, they are unsure of whether to give yes or no answers since they lack a clear idea of what the question is targeting. Questions have to be developed in a format which they make sense, and they generate the right answers from the participants (Sekaran, and Bougie, 2016). Before formulating the questions, the researcher should list all the questions needing answers and finally chose those that will feature in the questionnaire. Formulated questions should target the research objective to avoid blank answers or irrelevant ones. Hypothetical questions should also be avoided since they are related to the future behavior of a participant in a notorious way. For instance, “if hotel C was to open there, would you buy from them?”

How Are Multiple Methods Of Data Collection And From Multiple Sources Related To The Reliability And Validity Of The Measures?

If the information was collected using questionnaires before the research tools begin collecting the data, the researcher has the responsibility of testing the questionnaire to measure its validity and reliability. Additionally, it is essential to assess if the measure is valid. This refers to assessing the measuring accuracy or measuring the data which evaluates the variables which need measuring. Through this, Quinlan, et al. (2019) explained that the validity examines the information acquired from the subjects or questions that are targeted for the interview. Therefore, the reliability and validity of a questionnaire are ascertained by whether the questions available in the questionnaire are answered by participants who are represented by the available sample, the population or not.

To enhance the reliability and validity of a questionnaire, two vital situations apply to a questionnaire. First, the questionnaire is valid if the questions in the document seek to explain and express the issues that need to be measured. Secondly, a questionnaire is deemed to be reliable when the subjects provide answers that match the given duration (Leung 2015). Moreover, when a researcher collects data from different sources, the information is understood to be valid and reliable to the measure of the collected data. When the information is gathered from various sources such as questionnaires, interviews and observations, the data collected is strongly related to each other, and the researcher gets more confident with the results obtained.

Collecting data using a single technique can be weak or biased. Using multiple methods of data collection helps the researcher to confirm the findings. Similar findings give the researcher the confidence that the research was done effectively and successfully. Triangulation enables the researcher to get qualitative and quantitative data which is essential for combining the research findings (Saunders et al. 2016). When the researcher uses a method such as observation, they increase the validity of findings. This makes the researcher evaluate different classes to obtain the intended data.

When conducting a study, the use of multiple methods to collect information is a well-established tradition for most researches. Nonetheless, two main concerns emerge no matter the combination of methods used in data collection (Leung 2015). They include; the rationale of applying these methods and how they integrate varying sets of information. Concerning this, the gathered information tends to concentrate on analysis and validation for the researcher to get a better understanding of the study question. Using numerous approaches to collecting data lies in the idea that they enable researchers to prevent biases in each method. Therefore, when similar outcomes are produced after data collection, this means that the phenomenon under study has been measured accurately.

Multiple methods of collecting data allow intimate relationships to be recognized and understood in the research. Therefore, as Leung (2015) explained, when different methods are used, this means that certain valid qualitative research principles are based on the trustworthiness of the methods used. Moreover, validity depends on whether the research evaluates or measures what needs measuring. Nonetheless, reliability which is a vital research component focuses on acquiring similar outcomes that are dependable, replicable and consistent.

Every data collection method has its own built-in biases. Therefore, resorting to multi-methods of data collection is only going to compound the biases.” Provide a critique of this statement.

A successful study needs to be founded on information that is acquired from multiple sources. For instance, accounting research should be conducted using various methodologies such as quantitative approach triangulation and qualitative approach. To avoid confusion between research methods and the research methodology, a researcher should be able to differentiate between the two. Nevertheless, this means that almost all the approaches for data collection are connected to some biases that are associated with them. Therefore, correlations that exist from various sources, the same variable, and use different methods of collecting data are significant in these cases since they help in providing some credibility levels to the research tools implemented (McDaniel and Gates 2013). Furthermore, using various methods of collecting data adds credibility to the gathered information from the tools used. A researcher should be non-judgmental when conducting a study, and they should have clear objectives throughout the research process. This will prevent bias and produce more honest results regardless of the data collection method used.

One of the main facts to note about different data collection methods for conducting research is that they all have their own biases. For instance, in cases of interviews, there are biases linked to the interviewer, interviewee and the participants. However, if comparisons from the data collected using different sources are made, and it turns out that the relationship between the data collection methods come from different sources and that there are many data collection methods, then it is clear that the confidence and correlation levels are high according to Zohrabi (2013). However, the vice versa applies such that, if the connection between the answers is low, then it means that there are defects in the accuracy of the data and the researcher should focus on improving the correctness of the data. In these cases, the researcher needs to pay more attention to the methods of collecting data. For instance, in an interview, when a participant expresses high levels of satisfaction in their current jobs, then the researcher should treat the results as acceptable when measuring the concept or the variable using different tools in the questionnaire. This is even though the data acquired may have some correlation to information from another research. If a relationship between the data collection methods does not exist at all, then the correctness and accuracy of the data acquired should be highly suspected. Moreover, the tools used should also be deemed unreliable and invalid.

The triangulation method is chosen by most researchers as the best approach to minimize data collection biases. Triangulation refers to the method used by researchers to integrate various methodologies to research on a specific phenomenon. Therefore, when implementing this method, a researcher can apply qualitative and quantitative approaches in the same study. According to Zohrabi (2013), the main reason for using the triangulation method is to eliminate or minimize biases and to increase the validity and reliability of the research. Suppose a researcher has difficulties in estimating or acquiring the sample size. In that case, they may use the triangulation method to improve the validity of the research by confirming the results from the analysis using other data collection methods such as observations, and structured or open interviews. Using various methods to research a specific phenomenon enables the researcher to increase their understanding of the research question. However, triangulation can only be used as the original research design for opposing the implementation of results with low validity. A researcher should use qualitative and quantitative data collection methods to ensure that they incorporate a conceptual framework for providing effective answers for the research phenomenon being studied. The integration of these methods gives researchers inferences that could have been impossible if the researcher used them separately. During instances where researchers cannot control the population sample or if the sample size does not have adequate traditional statistical analysis, then they need to rethink the research design in a way that they can benefit from triangulation.

References

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