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Free «Field Note Observation» Essay Sample

Research studies involve collecting raw data from the field and analyzing it to generate information that can be used to understand a phenomenon or provide critical information for making managerial decisions. Various approaches are used in different researches. These include data collection approach and data analysis technique. The type of data to be collected influences the data collection technique and the data analysis approach. Also important for a research is the research question, the dilemma a research seeks to find out or answer as far as a phenomenon is concerned. To answer the research question, the research must be conducted in a specific place; it must have a scope. Also every data collection technique has shortcomings and advantages; thus, sometimes it is wise to include a number of techniques to capture a wide range of information. My data collection technique was observation; this technique has several shortcomings that an interview can help overcome.

The research question of my observation study was: How many people are looking down to texting using cell phone or any other usages? The question aimed to determine the number of people who look down to testing using their cell phones or any other usages.

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I set out to observe how many people were looking down to texting using their mobile phones or any other usages at the Mall of America and Rainbow Grocery Store.  The observation showed that many people look down to their phones testing or doing other activities with their phones, which is very dangerous to their safety. While testing or using the cell phone, most of the people do not look where they are going and are likely to bump it each other and cause injuries. Even more dangerous is a group of phone users who, in addition to looking down to their phones, have earphones on and are thus totally oblivious of their surrounding. Their attention is torn between the phone and what they are doing, and they end up disregarding the other activities by totally concentrating on the phone.

I conducted the observations at the Mall of America and Rainbow Grocery Store. I conducted the observation on the North side of the Mall. I placed myself at a peculiar position in front of a coffee shop and observed the shoppers as they went about their business. I observed the gender and age of people noting their activities with their phones. I noted young girls and boys, who were either alone or in groups, such as families, looking down at their phones, texting or doing other activities with their phones. The phones were a big distraction to these people, exposing them to the risks of causing serious accidents. In my observation, about 30% of the people were deeply engrossed in activities such as texting.  In my second observation I also used the same approach; however, I was more mobile within the location of my observation, the Rainbow grocery store uptown. My mobility made me noticeable by the shop attendants, and I had to move to another Rainbow grocery store. I wandered in the second store noting the activities of the shoppers, their gender and age. Most of the shoppers were mainly middle-aged women. In this store only three people, all men, looked at their phones texting. Of the three men, two were together. They looked like college students. The observation at the store did not meet my expectations, since I expected many people to look at their phones.  Definitely, the observations I made in the Mall of America and Rainbow Grocery Store were different. Although I did the same kind of observation at the two stores, the results were very different. However, all the results indicated that texting while walking is a serous social problem. It predisposes people to accidents and injuries.

Observation as a means of collecting data can be covert or overt. Using observation as a means of collecting data has several advantages and disadvantages. In covert observation a researcher fully takes part in the activities of the group he is researching without informing the members on why he is participating in their activities. This way he conducts the observation secretly.   The researcher only uses a gatekeeper, who is a member of the group, to introduce him to the group. The main pros of this approach are:

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  • The researcher can access groups that can’t freely consent to being researched.
  • The observer can avoid misleading behaviors, known as the observer effect (whereby group members change their behavior when they know that they are being observed). The researcher may, however, have a difficult time recording the data.

  In addition to difficulties in recording the collected data, covert observation of participant has several other cons:

  • The researcher may have to get involved in the same activities as the participants.
  • The researcher may experience the challenge of having to engage in the activities of the participants.
  • The researcher has to employ deceit to some extent, especially due to the reasons of his presence in the group.
  • There is a problem of going native, whereby the researcher may stop being a researcher and become a group participant on fulltime basis.

Overt observation, on the other hand, involves a researcher being open to the group as to his reasons for joining the group, and gain permission to conduct research in the group before he can commence researching. The researcher uses a sponsor, an individual who commands respect in the group, to access the group. Using a sponsor lessens the hostility a researcher is likely to encounter while studying the group. The main disadvantage of an overt observation is the risk of the observer effect, since subjects are likely to change their behavior once they know they are being observed. However, the approach has several advantages:

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  • The researcher avoids ethical problems associated with the group, since every one knows about his presence.
  • The shoppers can be observed in a natural setting.
  • Data is easily and openly recorded.
  • The problems of going native are avoided.

The other research method that I would have used to conduct this study is in in-depth interviews. This method would generate qualitative data about the habit of texting while walking.  Through the interviews, the selected sample of interviewees can give information in regard to why they look at their phone while walking, e.g. whether they are normally texting or there is another activity they do when looking at the phones. The responders can also give information on how frequent they look at their phone when walking, whether they have ever caused an accident or an injury to themselves or other people because of this activity. The interviewees can also provide information on how they feel about texting while walking.

In any research situation, the researcher and the researched share a unique relationship. The researcher is a seeker of information and the researched is the provider of the information. The two must have a proper cordial relationship in order to exchange the information. However, in a covert observation study such as this one it is only the researcher who knows about the relationship that exists between him and the researched. The researched were not aware that they were being researched. Based on the data collection approach used, the researcher can be termed as an observer while the researched are the observed. They are the customers of different malls. The researcher is an experimenter who must provide the necessary factors for the element being researched in order to yield usable data.  Being an experimenter in this research, I did not need to provide any conditions, since I observed elements in their natural environment without any controlled variables. This provided an opportunity to watch shoppers use their phones when they are shopping or conducting other activities at the shopping mall. The observer does a bit interfere with the subjects, thus giving them authority to yield more observable details through undertaking their activities the way they always do. Power is a common component of relationships, and it also affects the research and the researched relationship. The researched always have an upper hand, since they can choose to answer the question or reject to participate at all. On the other hand, it is always better when a researcher assumes a low power profile, since this way it is easy to persuade the researched to participate. In this research, the power was rather balanced, since I as a researcher did not manipulate the variable associated with the participants, and participants could not know what was going on, otherwise they could have changed their behavior.

In sum, my observation study aimed at answering the question How many people are looking down to texting using cell phone or any other usages? The study was conducted in two different places, the Mall of America and Rainbow Grocery Store. The study yielded a lot of information indicating that many cell phone users get engrossed in texting or doing other activities with their phones, becoming oblivious of their surrounding,  which exposes them to risks of accidents and injuries. The research method used has a number of shortcomings; however, it also confers numerous benefits to the study, allowing to collect data without interfering with the participants. I managed to get accurate information, since the participants could not change their behaviors due to the observer effect. In addition to the observation approach, I found that interviews would have also been efficient in collecting data about the phenomenon of looking at the phone while texting or performing other usages. In both cases, the data collected is qualitative. Finally, my observation study has little impact on the relations between the researcher and the researched. I was a passive observer while the researched were active participants. The research approach helped avoid the dynamics of the researcher-researched relationship power.


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