RESEARCHING THE REAL WORLD



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Orientation Observation In-depth interviews Document analysis and semiology Conversation and discourse analysis Secondary Data Surveys Experiments Ethics Research outcomes
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© Lee Harvey 2012–2017

Page updated 29 May, 2017

Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012–2017, Researching the Real World, available at qualityresearchinternational.com/methodology
All rights belong to author.


 

A Guide to Methodology

3. Observation

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Aspects
3.3 Methodological approaches
3.4 Access
3.5 Recording data

3.5.1 Introduction
3.5.2 What data to record
3.5.3 How to record data
3.5.4 Writing up your observations

3.6 Analysing observational or ethnographic data
3.7 Summary

3.5 Recording data

3.5.1 Introduction
As was noted above (Section 3.1), observational research involves 'looking hard' at social situations and being systematic in noting what is occurring. The (participant) observer does not just observe and record the unusual or 'extreme' behaviour, but notes all types of social interaction and events. The observation researcher builds up what some commentators have called 'thick descriptions' or 'rich descriptions', which are detailed accounts that emphasise richness and depth of reported observation and dialogue.

Field notes are the life-blood of observational research and sometimes researchers guard their notes jealously (see, for example, Filby's comments, Section 3.2.4.3). Anthropologists seem to treat their field notes with even more veneration. Jean Jackson (1990) argued that a 'mystique' surrounds anthropological field notes, which manifests itself through protectiveness and a reverential attitude towards the notes, supported by apocryphal and real stories about their loss.

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