Observational techniques

In marketing and the social sciences, observational research (or field research) is a social research technique that involves the direct observation of phenomena in their natural setting. This differentiates it from experimental research in which a quasi-artificial environment is created to control for spurious factors, and where at least one of the variables is manipulated as part of the experiment.


Observational techniques in context

Compared with quantitative research and experimental research, observational research tends to be less reliable but often more valid[citation needed]. The main advantage of observational research is flexibility. The researchers can change their approach as needed. Also it measures behaviour directly, not reports of behaviour or intentions. The main disadvantage is it is limited to behavioural variables. It cannot be used to study cognitive or affective variables. Another disadvantage is that observational data is not usually generalizable.

Three Approaches

Generally, there are three types of observational research:

  • Covert observational research - The researchers do not identify themselves. Either they mix in with the subjects undetected, or they observe from a distance. The advantages of this approach are: (1) It is not necessary to get the subjects’ cooperation, and (2) The subjects’ behaviour will not be contaminated by the presence of the researcher. Some researchers have ethical misgivings with the deceit involved in this approach.
  • Overt observational research - The researchers identify themselves as researchers and explain the purpose of their observations. The problem with this approach is subjects may modify their behaviour when they know they are being watched. They portray their “ideal self” rather than their true self. The advantage that the overt approach has over the covert approach is that there is no deception (see PCIA-II; Holigrocki, Kaminski, & Frieswyk, 1999, 2002).
  • Researcher Participation - The researcher participates in what they are observing so as to get a finer appreciation of the phenomena. Researchers that participate tend to lose their objectivity.

In Marketing Research

In marketing research, the most frequently used types of observational techniques are:

  • Personal observation
    • observing products in use to detect usage patterns and problems
    • observing license plates in store parking lots
    • determining the socio-economic status of shoppers
    • determining the level of package scrutiny
    • determining the time it takes to make a purchase decision
  • Mechanical observation
    • eye-tracking analysis while subjects watch advertisements
      • oculometers - what the subject is looking at
      • pupilometers - how interested is the viewer
    • electronic checkout scanners - records purchase behaviour
    • on-site cameras in stores
    • Nielsen box for tracking television station watching
    • voice pitch meters - measures emotional reactions
    • psychogalvanometer - measures galvanic skin response
  • Audits
    • retail audits to determine the quality of service in stores
    • inventory audits to determine product acceptance
    • shelf space audits
  • Trace Analysis
    • credit card records
    • computer cookie records
    • garbology - looking for traces of purchase patterns in garbage
    • detecting store traffic patterns by observing the wear in the floor (long term) or the dirt on the floor (short term)
    • exposure to advertisements
  • Content analysis
    • observe the content of magazines, television broadcasts, radio broadcasts, or newspapers, either articles, programs, or advertisements

See also

List of related topics

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Observational astronomy — Mayall telescope at Kitt Peak National Observatory Observational astronomy is a division of the astronomical science that is concerned with getting data, in contrast with theoretical astrophysics which is mainly concerned with finding out the… …   Wikipedia

  • Observational science — An observational science is a science where it is not possible to construct controlled experiments in the area under study. For example, in astronomy, it is not possible to create or manipulate stars or galaxies in order to observe what happens.… …   Wikipedia

  • Atmospheric Chemistry Observational Databases — Over the last two centuries many atmospheric chemical observations have been made from a variety of ground based, airborne, and orbital platforms and deposited in databases. Many of these databases are publicly available. All of the instruments… …   Wikipedia

  • Documentary mode — is a conceptual scheme developed by American documentary theorist Bill Nichols that seeks to distinguish particular traits and conventions of various documentary film styles. Nichols identifies six different documentary modes in his schema:… …   Wikipedia

  • Marketing research — Marketing Key concepts Product marketing · Pricing …   Wikipedia

  • Mughal Empire — Mughals redirects here. For other uses, see Mughal (disambiguation). The Mughal Empire شاهان مغول Shāhān e Moġul …   Wikipedia

  • Indian astronomy — the earliest textual mention of which is given in the religious literature of India (2nd millennium BCE) became an established tradition by the 1st millennium BCE, when IAST|Jyotiṣa Vedānga and other ancillary branches of learning called Vedangas …   Wikipedia

  • sociology — sociologist, n. /soh see ol euh jee, soh shee /, n. the science or study of the origin, development, organization, and functioning of human society; the science of the fundamental laws of social relations, institutions, etc. [1835 45; < F… …   Universalium

  • Industrial and organizational psychology — Psychology …   Wikipedia

  • Brown dwarf — Brown dwarfs are sub stellar objects which are too low in mass to sustain hydrogen 1 fusion reactions in their cores, which is characteristic of stars on the main sequence. Brown dwarfs have fully convective surfaces and interiors, with no… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.