Examples of Observations (HL)

tdixon Qualitative Research Methods Leave a Comment

What you need to know…

Here are some very brief summaries of real experiments that have been carried out using observational methods. You can read what the various observational methods that are used are here.

Bandura’s Bobo Doll

Children watched an adult playing or fighting with an inflatable doll. They were then left in a room with the same doll and a bunch of toys. They were being watched from behind a double-sided mirror by the researchers who collected data on their behaviour.

Video here.

Saint Helena

On the small island of Saint Helena in the middle of the Atlantic ocean there was no TV until the mid-1990s. One way the researchers gathered observational data was to set up video cameras in the playground and to film the children playing. They compared the level of aggressive behaviour before the introduction of TV and after.

Festinger’s Cult

Leon Festinger and some colleagues secretly joined a cult that believed the world was going to end. They wanted to see how the cult members would react after the world didn’t end.

Gang Leader for A Day

A sociologist joined a gang to study their behaviour. He was kidnapped when he first tried to gather data from gang members by using a questionnaire. They told him that he couldn’t understand them like that and he’d actually have to be involved with the gang to really understand what it was like. He studied them over a long period of time but published a book called Gang Leader for a Day because he was a pseudo leader for just one day only.

Video here.

Rosenhan in Psychiatric Hospitals

Rosenhan wanted to see how accurate the diagnosis of psychological disorders were in the 1960s. He and a bunch of his volunteers went to different psychiatric hospitals in the USA and told them they were hearing a voice saying “thud”, “hollow” and “empty.” Once they were admitted into the psychiatric hospital, they were told to be have normally and they took notes on what they observed. The hospital staff were never aware that they were researchers although some of the fellow patients thought something was strange about the way they were taking notes.

Video here.


What you need to do…

  1. Work with a partner to identify the different research methods used in each of these studies.
  2. Create a table in your notes that identifies the strengths and limitations of each of the five research methods.

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