Field and Observational Research

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Field research uses both low and high constraint research methods to draw conclusions about the research topics. Observational research is a low constraint field research method in which observations are made in the natural environment of the participant. Observational research has been used by those seeking knowledge before the birth of modern science.

Traditionally observational research has mainly been done on animal behavior in their natural environment, but it is now being used in many disciplines, such as, education, sociology, management, nursing, communications, and psychology. A main goal of observational research is to analyze participants’ actions in their everyday settings. Observational research can be carried out in order to familiarize a researcher with participants’ actions and their environmental settings. This allows the researcher to gain descriptive information about the subject and to get information about the relationship between variables.

When doing observational research, the researcher must avoid influencing the behavior of the participants. Their goal is to be an unobtrusive observer. If the researcher influences the participant while collecting data, measurement reactivity occurs. Measurement reactivity is the result of a participant acting differently when they realize that their actions are being observed. Measurement reactivity may require the research to be scrapped and started over as it removes validity from the experiment. Even though observational research takes place in a participants’ natural environment, the researcher must plan out their research and procedures as though they were doing high constraint research in a laboratory. This allows the researcher to have a plan of action in place when undesirable events occur, such as, the participant becoming aware of the observation being done.

Observational research does have its limitations. There can be low reproducibility of the research findings due to the...
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