Chapter 6 - Bakersfield College

Case Studies and
Passer Chapter 6
Slides Prepared by Alison L. O’Malley
Case Studies
•In-depth analysis of an individual, social
unit, or event
•Remember Phineas Gage?
•How do psychological scientists conducting
case studies acquire their data?
Case Studies: Concerns
•Difficulty drawing causal conclusions
•Generalizability of findings
•Potential for observer bias
How can these concerns be overcome?
Observer Bias: Expectations can color perception
Observational Research
• Umbrella term for various types of
nonexperimental research designs
wherein trained observers record ongoing
• Qualitative, quantitative, or mixedmethods approaches
• As opposed to case studies, involve
multiple participants
Observational Research
Naturalistic observation
Participant observation
Structured observation
Naturalistic Observation
• Researcher(s) strive for little to no
interaction with participants
• Disguised: participants are not aware
they’re being observed
• Undisguised: participants know they’re
being observed
I’m watching you!
Naturalistic Observation
• Behavior examined in “ecologically valid” (i.e.,
real life) conditions
• But research design lacks control and some
data may be overlooked
• Reactivity occurs when behavior is altered
through the process of being observed
• Must remain mindful of APA Ethics Code
When are researchers permitted to forego
informed consent?
Participant Observation
• Researchers embed themselves in the
phenomena of interest
• Disguised vs. undisguised distinction still
applies – participants may not know
researchers are among them
• Ethnographic approaches are qualitative
and incorporate interviews to develop a
narrative of the research topic
Participant Observation
Critical Questions
• Is participant observation more or less
subject to reactivity than naturalistic
• Is disguised participant observation
Structured Observation
• Researchers “tweak” the research setting,
influencing what happens when
• Sometimes called analogue behavioral
observation in keeping with goal of
creating “analogues” of naturally occurring
• Affords more efficiency and control
compared to other forms of observational
research, but greater potential for
Recording Observations
• Narrative records – extensive description
of behavior as it unfolds
• Field notes – less comprehensive records
of behavior
• Behavioral coding systems – categorize
behaviors into mutually exclusive
Discuss whether each approach is more
qualitative or quantitative.
Recording Observations
Develop a coding scheme for handshakes.
Make sure that each category is
accompanied by a clear operational
Recording Observations
Supplements to ongoing behavioral observations
• Rating and ranking scales – observers
evaluate participants’ standing on various
• Diaries – participants observe and record
their own behaviors
What observational research strategy is
used here? What sort of research questions could
this researcher answer based upon her data?
Sampling Behavior
Obtaining representative data without recording everything
and everyone!
• Focal sampling – Focus on one participant at
a time
• Scan sampling – Observe everyone for a
short period of time at predetermined
• Situation sampling – Observe behavior across
multiple settings
• Time sampling – Conduct observations over
representative set of time periods
Practice Question
Questions of external validity pervade
observational research. Which sampling
strategy may be regarded as the most
externally valid?
a. Time sampling
b. Scan sampling
c. Focal sampling
d. Situation sampling
Overcoming Observer Bias
•Well-developed coding system
•Observer training
•Blind observation
•Verify reliability of observer practices
Poor interrater reliability !
Avoiding Reactivity
•Disguised observation (an extreme form of
unobtrusive measurement)
•Physical trace measures
•Archival records
Closing Considerations
•How can observational research,
correlational research, and experimental
research work in concert to help satisfy the
goals of science?
• Description
• Explanation
• Prediction
• Control