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According to the book Research Methodology of Hernández, Fernández & Baptista, observation is a "method of data collection" consistent "in the systematic, valid and reliable record of observable behaviors and situations, through a set of categories and subcategories”.
What is the observation in quantitative research?
Observation allows us, for example, to observe the acceptance of a group of students towards a new teacher.
For this reason, observation is valid as a method of measuring behaviors.
Similarly, when using observation, instruments are needed to systematically record the observed behaviors.
These instruments have categories and subcategories that allow to record the observed behaviors properly.
In addition, the categories must respond to the research variables.
The aforementioned is known as validity and is one of the requirements that a data collection instrument must have.
Below we detail the characteristics that these instruments should have as part of a quantitative investigation:
Measuring instruments in quantitative research
The collection of quantitative data is done through measuring instruments.
Measuring instruments must represent the variables of quantitative research and must also be reliable and valid.
In this sense, reliability indicates that the measuring instrument allows to obtain consistent and coherent results.
On the other hand, the validity corresponds to the ability of the instrument to actually measure the variable whose purpose is to measure.
Therefore, at the time of recording an observed behavior, an instrument that meets the parameters described above must be used.
Guidelines for developing the observation in quantitative research:
When making the observation, it's recommended to take into account the following guidelines:
1. Define the behavior, aspect or event to observe
In the first place, the behavior, aspect or event to be observed must be defined.
For this reason, researchers must theoretically nurture to make an appropriate definition of what will be observed.
The definition provides the precision and accuracy of the event, conduct or aspect when making the information.
Likewise, and if it corresponds to the research design, must be set the population and sample since that limits the universe to observe.
Similarly, all previous respective delimitations should be made, so that an accurate observation of what is investigated is made.
If you want to observe the verbal and nonverbal communication of a group of adolescents during a school period, you must define what is verbal and nonverbal communication, as well as its characteristics.
On the other hand, you can also investigate attitudes of people with Down syndrome towards the study techniques taught in their school.
In this sense, "study techniques" should be defined. However, since the study techniques are not the same for people with Down syndrome, then one must be specific with the definition: “study techniques for people with Down syndrome”.
On the other hand, in both cases a population and sample must be established, since they are investigations about groups that correspond to a universe.
2. Establish the categories and subcategories of the event, aspect or behavior to observe
The behaviors that are going to be observed can be divided into categories or subcategories, whose establishment and definition is useful for the research process.
These categories and subcategories can be part of the instrument that is designed to record the observed behaviors.
The events to be observed can be categorized in multiple ways; However, the researcher will establish the categories in coherence with the variables of the research.
This ensures that the method is consistent with the investigation.
For example, in the case of verbal communication of adolescents, the categories could be:
- Peaceful phrases
- Violent phrases
On the other hand, in the case of nonverbal communication, the units can be segmented into gestures. Therefore, the categories could be:
- Gestures of inclusion.
- Gestures of exclusion.
Each category must be defined after being established, in addition, subcategories can be included. For example:
- Gestures of inclusion:
Likewise, subcategories can also be attitude scales, making use of scales such as the Likert type.
In this case, taking the example of the attitudes of people with Down syndrome towards study techniques, we can establish:
Other guidelines to consider in the observation process
Some behaviors can be analyzed by the periods of time in which they occur or by the number of members involved in it.
Everything will depend on the research variables. However, here we propose some examples:
1. For fragments of time
The first way in which a behavior can be analyzed is by dividing it into the different stages in which it developed.
In that case it is useful to mark the time periods in minutes and record the event or behavior.
2. For the roles that are assumed
Groups can establish hierarchical schemes that allow behavior analysis
In this way, experiences such as power, distribution of tasks and roles played in the group can be described.