Scholarship & Research
Observational research: A tool for collecting behavioral data and validating surveys
Observational research is an underused technique that involves the direct observation of people in a natural setting or in surroundings that closely resemble a natural situation. This differentiates it from survey research which may be completed in almost any location. Observational techniques can be an effective method for collecting behavioral data and for validating information we obtain from individual surveys. It measures behavior directly, rather than reports of behavior or intentions. Thus, observational research is a direct approach to collecting data, as contrasted to a survey where people are asked what they do or would do in different situations, and we assume that they reported actual behaviors. In our studies we use observational research for many purposes including designing better surveys by knowing what choices need to put on the questionnaire. Additionally, we use â€œcasual observationâ€ to assist us in developing a â€œformalâ€ observation process where the observer will know what types of behaviors to watch for and how they should be recorded. In addition, behavioral research also allows for the flexibility of recording things that were seen but were not expected. Examples of using observational research in recent studies such as watching for specific food safety behaviors as people prepared a meat dish in their own kitchen and research where observational data was used to validate diet surveys will be presented. The reliability of the observations can be increased by training observers, practicing recording observations and reaching agreement between the observers during the training.
Godwin, S.L. and Chambers, E. IV. 2009. Observational research: A tool for collecting behavioral data and validating surveys. In: Proceedings SPISE 2009: Food Consumer Insights in Asia, ed. Abdi, H., Valentin, D., and Nguyen, D.H., Vietnam National University – HoChiMinh City Publishing House. pp 29-35.