Data Collection and Participant Observation in Nursing Research

Afza.Malik GDA

Participant Observation In Nursing Data Collection 

Data Collection and Participant Observation in Nursing Research

Participant Observation,Purposes of Participant Observation ,Whats Would Needed for Participant Observation,Role of Observer,Role of the Researcher,Concerns in Participant Observation.

Participant Observation

     Participant observation is an approach to data collection that is most often associated with naturalistic or qualitative inquiry, and it involves the researcher as a participant in the scene or observation that is being studied.

Purposes of Participant Observation 

    The primary purpose is to gain an insider's, or emic, view of an event, setting, or general situation. The researcher focuses on the context of the scene along with the ways that individuals are behaving. Examples might include making and participating in observations in a busy emergency room, observing the ways in which people carry out rites of passage, or participating in a special feast or occasion. 

    The researcher attempts to make sense of the situation by interpreting personal experiences and observations and talking with individuals who are present, while simultaneously being fully involved in all of the experiences that occur in that setting. 

    In this way participant observation enables the researcher to gain a view of a society but also serves as a way to validate verbal information that was provided by members of a society or group being studied. 

    Another way in which participant observation may be used in research is with populations in which there is limited communication, such as very small children, the mentally impaired, or elderly stroke survivors. 

    The challenge for the researcher is to combine the activities of observation and participation so that understanding is achieved while maintaining an objective distance. 

Whats Would Needed for Participant Observation

    To carry out participant observation the researcher needs to decide on 

(a) the role of the observer

(b) the degree to which the role is known to others

(c) the degree to which the purpose is known to others

(d) the amount of time that will be spent in conducting the observation

(e ) the scope of the observational focus. 

Role of Observer

    There is a continuum along which the role of the observer may be involved that ranges from involvement of the researcher in all aspects of the observational experience to only partial or minimal involvement. The researcher bases this determination on the research question and the nature of the research.     

    For example, a researcher who assists in a homeless shelter may wish to be involved in all aspects of the daily routine; another researcher may wish only to conduct observations in a busy emergency room for which the routine is more complex. On the other hand, an invitation to participate in a special ceremony or ritual may involve only partial participation.

Role of the Researcher 

    The degree to which the observer's role and the purpose of the observation are known to others also is related to the intent of the research. 

    In some cases the role of the researcher will be known to all, and in others it may not. If the purpose of the study is to know and understand a particular ritual or religious ceremony, for example, the role of the researcher may be known to all involved in the situation. 

    In other cases the role of the researcher may be minimized, as in situations in which the informants may not fully understand the researcher's participation: observing children on a playground or in a children's unit in a hospital. 

    However, ethical and moral issues arise when the nature and role of the researcher are not made known to all of the individuals being observed. The extent to which individuals are reported varies greatly. from full disclosure to no disclosure, and is often based on the researcher's estimate of how scientific truth can best be obtained. 

    The amount of time the researcher spends in observation and the scope or focus of the observation also depend on the purpose and intent of the research. In some cases the participant observation experiences are carried out for the length and duration of the research. In other research studies, participant observation may occur at only one point during the study. 

    For example, sometimes a researcher may choose to enter the field and become a participant observer prior to conducting interviews. This gives the researcher time to learn about a community, group of people, or situation and then to use this knowledge to develop questions for subsequent interviews. 

    In addition, the focus and intent of the observations may vary from making general observations of the entire situation, context, or event to very focused observations. For example, a focused observation might include personal interactions or a specific nursing or caring behavior.

Concerns in Participant Observation

    One major concern in using participant observation is the degree to which subjects may become sensitized to the researcher's presence and may not behave as they normally would if the researcher were not present. 

    The issue of subject sensitization can be addressed by increasing the duration of time the researcher spends in the observational experience. A longer time spent in observing can also enhance and strengthen the researcher's credibility, as well as any theoretical and empirical generalizations that are made.

     In summary, participant observation is a commonly used approach to data collection that is used in naturalistic or qualitative research. It is an approach that allows the researcher to gain an insider's perspective on a social situation or event and can permit the researcher to be totally or minimally involved.Read More

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