Out-of-Class Observation Exercise- Can be made up with one of the observations options below
Objectives: Through this exercise students should
- Have a chance to practice their observational research skills
- Develop practice with quantitative and qualitative data collection
- Demonstrate abilities at creatively describing the scene through field notes
- Demonstrate the ability to create tentative conclusions and possible directions for research
Details: To accomplish this exercise, students should:
- Choose a public site for observing for approximately 1 hour (not less than ½ hour). This should be consistent observation—that is, if you are going to observe at a restaurant, the observation should not be while you are eating (especially with another person). You want to really be able to observe. Previous sites have included things such as:
- Sports Bar (strangers interacting in Sports Bar)
- Restaurant/coffee shop
- Emergency room
- Sports event
- Bowling Alley
- Concert line or concert itself
- Campus dining hall
- Choose a site where you can observe rather unobtrusively. You don’t want people walking up to your table and asking why you’re staring at them or anything. Until you have better training and practice observing, you probably want a site where you can take
- You may “participate” in the scene—even ask “ethnographic questions.” It is best to be open and not covert.
- Be sure to separate observationsfrom interpretations as you write! J
Instructions- What to Post:
Your observation will probably take broad focus. This might include observations of a range of things- how people are interacting, types of things/activities people are doing, the mood of conversations and interpersonal interactions, etc. By end of observation, you might begin to come up with some focus of common themes you see and pursuable research questions. For your notes, you’ll want to be sure to separate observations from interpretations as you write! 🙂
Describe the scene/demographics: what time of day is it, what kind of space is this, how populated is it, what is in the physical setting/describe the built environment, what are people doing/wearing, how many people are there, what are the typical ages, race/ethnicity, attire of people present
Take Field Notes: during your observation, write down your notes, consider the below:
General Guidelines for the Descriptive Content
- Describe the physical setting.
- Describe the social environment and the way in which participants interacted within the setting. This may include patterns of interactions, frequency of interactions, direction of communication patterns [including non-verbal communication], and patterns of specific behavioral events, such as, conflicts, decision-making, or collaboration.
- Describe the participants and their roles in the setting.
- Describe, as best you can, the meaning of what was observed from the perspectives of the participants.
- Record exact quotes or close approximations of comments that relate directly to the purpose of the study.
- Describe any impact you might have had on the situation you observed [important!].
General Guidelines for the Reflective Content
- Note ideas, impressions, thoughts, and/or any criticisms you have about what you observed.
- Include any unanswered questions or concerns that have arisen from analyzing the observation data.
- Clarify points and/or correct mistakes and misunderstandings in other parts of field notes.
- Include insights about what you have observed and speculate as to why you believe specific phenomenon occurred.
- Record any thoughts that you may have regarding any future observations.
*In your notes, try to include more than just the visual sense (think: what do you hear, smell…)
- Include a final “memo” that summarizes the event, tells what you learned (both about observing and about the field/scene/site in question) and suggests potential directions for research
- Based on the potential directions for research you develop, design a qualitative study, and include the following information:
- Who is your target sample- describe basic demographics
- What is your data collection method- 1-1 interview, focus group, case study, participant observation, participatory action research
- What questions would you ask participants- develop 1-2 questions you would ask in order to address your research question