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Unobtrusive Measures

Unobtrusive measures are one of the research methods used by researchers. These measures are used when the researcher wants to get information from the informants without their knowledge that they are giving out the information. This is done in order to avoid the bias that occurs when an informant is directly in contact with the researcher. The direct contact usually involves face- to – face interviews or the answering of questionnaires. When people realize that they are being watched or their behavior is being observed they tend to change their behavior either to confirm the researcher’s views or in defiance of them.

When answering the questions posed by the researcher, the respondents tend to think before they answer the questions. This means that the answers given are not really what happens in real life but are a reflection of what the respondent thinks the researcher wants to hear. They may also not want to answer some or all of the questions asked and thus either lie about the answer or simply refuse to answer all those questions that they deem to be intrusive on their privacy. The may also not have the time required to fill out questionnaires that are used in surveys.

This ends up providing the researcher with information that is not very reliable and neither is it valid. The problems outlined above are the ones that end up making the researcher prefer to use any of the unobtrusive measures. This type of research method does not require the presence of the researcher. They also do not require the use of any form of data gathering that involves the direct and conscious participation of the respondents. There are however some instances that these measures cannot be used. This is because of the nature of the information required and its use.

The major problem with the use of the unobtrusive measures is that the researcher has absolutely no control over the type of data collected. This may then end up leading to the collection of a lot of unnecessary data. There are many types of unobtrusive measurements that give the researcher a choice on which one would best suit his or her situation. The sort of research and the information that the researcher hopes to gain determines the type to be adapted for use. The most frequently used methods include indirect measures, analysis of secondary data and content analysis.

Each type avoids the involvement of respondents in the answering of questions instead they all involve watching or learning about the respondents from afar such that they do not notice that they are being observed and they continue behaving as they normally would without the research taking place (Webb E. G. , Campbell D. T, Schwartz R. D, & Sechrest L 56-102). The problem associated with the use of unobtrusive measures is that they do not go through all the steps required for a research to be ethical.

Research ethics demand the respondents have to be informed of their participation in the research. When conducting a research using these unobtrusive measures, it means that the researcher has not communicated his or her intentions to the respondents and hence does not have their permission on using the information gathered from the respondents. This is usually corrected by the use of this information only in areas of public information if these measures are used in the collection of personal and private data it will have gone against the ethics of research.

The indirect methods of collecting data range from a wide variety of methods depending on the researcher. The resources available to the researcher, the imagination and also the type of information required determine the method to be used. The researcher may use his or her discretion and collect information by just observing what people are doing in relation with the research and record the findings. It could also involve direct observation by the use of machines like CCTV where by the people are recorded in their day-to-day lives without their being informed.

They are watched in their natural setting and the information needed is gleaned from these tapes after they have collected enough materials. It is in the use of indirect measures that the researcher has to be most careful about ethics. This is because one is taking information about people analyzing it and using it to come to conclusions without the informed consent of the people being observed. This can then be easily translated to invasion of the “unknowing” respondents privacy if they so wished when they find out.

However, in situations where these methods can be easily and ethically used then the researcher has to be able to test for the validity and reliability of the information. The best way to determine the reliability and also the validity of the measures used is by retesting the same procedure. If the information is similar to the previous one, then one is satisfied that the measurement used can be relied on and is valid. The method that involves the analyzing of secondary data can only use data that is already present. The analysis of data does not mean the analyzing of the written text.

It instead refers to the re- analyzing of the quantitative data that has already been analyzed before. It tries to look at the collected data from a new angle to try and interpret it in a way that is relevant to the current study. Since there is a lot of data that has already been collected and stored, there is a lot of combination of different data used in the analysis. The data that can be used in the analysis is retrieved from governmental databases and also those belonging to other organizations. These data is usually made accessible and available to other people so that they can also analyze it.

These data can be used by various researchers to come to conclusions since the analysis of data can be viewed from any perspective ranging from social to economic to various other fields of study. This secondary analysis can also be used to replicate the research previously done. This is because in any research especially the original one there is a very high possibility of error occurring in the analysis of data. It then means that the reanalysis of the data is very important because it identifies the errors made and analyses the data afresh without the errors (Webb E. G. , Campbell D. T, Schwartz R.

D, & Sechrest L 56-102). There are many advantages associated with the use of secondary data analysis. One of the major advantages is that one is not required to go the field to gather the data since it has already been gathered by someone else and all that the researcher needs to do is to analyze already existing data. It also enables one to expand their scope of research because the data is usually already in a wide scope for example in a national or even international scope. If the researcher were to have such a wide scope in conducting the original research, he or she may be hindered by the lack of resources.

The resources required to be able to conduct such a large-scale research may be beyond the attainability of the researcher. However, there are certain disadvantages concerning the use of secondary data. The researcher does not know the problems and challenges hat were faced in the collection of the data. He or she ends up not knowing what can occur in the collection of data how to avoid or deal with these problems. No matter how well documented a research is it is never able to replicate the experience faced in the field, furthermore, one may not have easy access to some of the databases which are far too complex for them to be accessible.

The researcher often times not sure which data can be combined to reach the conclusions that they want to The other commonly used unobtrusive measure is the content analysis method. This is a method that involves the analyzing of documents. The analysis can be either qualitative, quantitative or both depending on the nature of the research. It is done when one tries to identify similarities or patterns in a given text. The documented texts are analyzed to check if there are any patterns that can be identified to show that those particular contents f the texts have the possibility of being valid since they are found in different text.

It consists of various areas since it is very broad research area that all involves analysis of the text in questions. There is quantitative descriptive analysis of the text. This involves describing the text in a quantitative way. One may try to find out which words were used the most in the text. Once this has been determined then the number is recorded. The same case applies for phrases. The counting and recording of the frequency of phrase and word use is best done through the use of computer programs because to do this manually is quite tedious.

It may also lead to errors since one may be overwhelmed by the work involved especially if the text is very wide. In this part of content analysis the patterns are identified and their number recorded (Webb E. G. , Campbell D. T, Schwartz R. D, & Sechrest L. 56-102). There is also thematic analysis of the text in questions. In this type of analysis, the research is more interested in identifying the themes and/or major ideas that are present in a text document or in a set of documents. There is no limit on the number and land of texts that can be used in this analysis.

One can use a large number of documents as long as it is within ones ability to be able to analyze all the documents that have been chosen for many other analyses. Any type of text can be used ranging from field notes to internal memos to many others. As long as one can be able to identify the main theme in these texts then one is allowed to use them. Finally there is the indexing area of context analysis. This is best done through the use of the computer programs that are designed to index documents. One of thee programs is the Key Words In Context (KWIC). This program is used to analyze text data and rapidly index the text.

All the key words that are within the text are identified and indexed. The key words that are indexed must not be included in the exception dictionary. The indexed words are written in alphabetical order and are listed alongside the text within which they were found. This helps anyone who reads the index to know in which context the key word was used within the text. An unobtrusive measure also involves the sifting through someone’s garbage to learn more about him or her. This may be unconventional but if one wants to know for example a person eats or what is their regular diet, all one has to do is check in the persons garbage.

The leftovers thrown away and wrappers will show what that person usually takes for meals everyday. This is done without actually going to the person to ask questions. The person may lie about what they use in the house in an attempt to show that they consume a balanced diet or that their diet consists of expensive foods whereas this is not true. Unobtrusive measures can be used in such a case because otherwise there is the possibility of errors occurring. Apart from sifting through garbage the other example given is the reading of graffiti.

This is used to gauge the mental wellbeing of the people in a community. People to express that which they cannot normally express in the presence of others use graffiti. It therefore shows the person reading it the true feelings of those who live in that community. Most of the times graffiti is used by frustrated people to express their frustrations to other since they do not believe anyone will listen to them even if they decide to speak about it. Sociologists can use these unobtrusive measures to learn more about the innermost feelings of the society especially that which is not expressed.

Unobtrusive measures can be used so as to avoid the presence of selection and researcher bias. The selection bias comes about when there are errors in the way that data has been collected. It may have occurred in the choosing of the sample. The researcher may be already based on what they exhibit. It may also involve the inclusion or usually because of the bias that those in the sample exhibit and thus end up having wrong data which in turn leads to wrong conclusions. It can also be used to avoid researcher bias.

The researcher bias is that bias that occurs because the researcher already has a preconceived idea of what he or she wants from the research. The researcher has already formed a conclusion in his or her mind and looks only for the data that will confirm this conclusion. Any data that does not go in line with the conclusions that the researcher expects to come up with is quickly dismissed. His then means that the data collection has flaws and so does the conclusion. When conducting unobtrusive methods of data collection, the researcher can avoid this because all they do is observer what is happening and recording it.

When it comes to analyzing secondary data the researcher has no option apart from analyzing and recording what is present in the documents (Webb E. G. , Campbell D. T, Schwartz R. D, & Sechrest L). This method however has the disadvantage that it cannot be replicated. This is because the methods used do not allow other researchers to do the same research. This goes against one of the rules of research, which dictates that other researchers must be able to conduct the same research in the same way and end up with the same results.

This then affects the reliability of the research. This problem arises because the data is collected not from people who are giving the information and can be easily verified but from people who are leaving bits and pieces of information unconsciously. This is the information that the researcher bases the findings on. To counter this problem, the researcher has to use the triangulation method of data collection and analysis. Triangulation is use of various different methods to explore an issue; the best way to perform triangulation is by combining observation and interviews.

In this case the unobtrusive measures are the observation part of triangulation while the interview part may consist of focus group. The use of the different methods ends up filling on the gaps left in each method of collection. This shows that the unobtrusive measures are an effective way of gathering data in sociology although it has many ethical loopholes but this can be avoided through careful consideration.

Work cited

Webb E. G. , Campbell D. T, Schwartz R. D, & Sechrest L. Non-obtrusive measures. Revised Edition Sage Publication Inc. Thousand Oaks London 200 56-102.

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