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Observational research, also known as field research, pertains to a research approach that engages in the direct recording of a phenomenon as it occurs in its natural condition (Zechmeister et al. , 2003). This research approach is distinct from the other research methods because it employs a quasi-artificial scenario that is comprised of a number of factors, of which some could be controlled. The capacity to control at least one of the factors in the environment allows the researcher to perform the scientific method that would answer the developed hypothesis.
Observational research could be performed using any of the three classified types of observational techniques. The covert type of observational research involves unidentified researchers that directly interact with the study participants and remain undetected until the completion of the investigation. In other cases, the researchers are positioned at a distance from the study participants, yet are still capable of direct observation of the actions and interactions that each of the study participants engages in.
One advantage of this type of observational research approach is that the study participants are not required to cooperate with the researcher. The anonymity of the researcher in the scenario provides study participants to freely express themselves and to liberally make decisions without being influenced by the researcher. Unfortunately, it is also possible that certain ethical violations could be related to this type of observational approach, mainly as a form of deception that is associated with the researchers’ anonymity.
The overt type of observational research allows the researchers to identify themselves to the study participants.
In addition, the researchers are also required to fully disclose the purpose of their investigation to the study participants. One disadvantage that is strongly associated with the overt type of observational research is the impact of the disclosure on the behavior of the study participants during the entire experimental period. It is actually natural for an individual to be watchful of their actions when they are aware that at least one individual is observing their behavior.
As such, the study participant exerts effort in projecting the ideal personality that is acceptable to the eyes of the beholder and definitely not reflective of the actual personality of the study participant. However, it should be understood that in this type of observational research approach, there would be no ethical issues related to deception of the study participants because the identity and the goals of the investigator have been disclosed early on.
Researcher participation is another observational type of research approach that engages the investigator in the scenario that is being studied. One advantage of this type of observational technique is that the investigator is allowed to directly interact and to directly appreciate an incident that is being studied. Aside from taking notes of the effects and reactions of the study participants, the researcher also interacts with the rest of the scenario and regards himself as another study participant in the investigation.
One disadvantage of this observational type is that the investigator may lose track of the goals of his research study because he becomes extremely engrossed in the activities occurring in the study scenario. In the observational study described in this unit, the covert approach was employed, wherein the investigator directly interacted with 50 study participants with their knowledge of his role and his goals in the interaction.
In addition, the study participants are unaware that they are being observed in terms of their attitudes and responses to a specific stimulus or setting. The investigator thus chooses to project a smiling stance as he talks to 50 individuals and he takes note of the response of each of the study participants during his exchange with them. The investigator then rates the response of each of the study participants as very friendly, friendly or neutral.
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