SAGE Journal Articles

SAGE journal articles and other additional readings have been carefully selected by the author to accompany each chapter. Click on the following links. Please note these will open in a new window.

Article 7.1

Harvey, S., Olórtegui, M., Leontsini, E., & Winch, P. (2009). “They’ll change what they’re doing if they know that you’re watching”: Measuring reactivity in health behavior because of an observer’s presence – A case from the Peruvian Amazon. Field Methods, 21, 3-25.

Social scientists often employ direct observation to study human behavior, but a health researcher who proposes it may face considerable skepticism from colleagues. Concerns about reactivity lead many to question the validity of observational data. Because few studies have measured reactivity, evidence to evaluate this concern is limited. The authors report results from their systematic measurement of reactivity during a Peruvian malaria prevention study. In sixty observations over nine months, observers recorded all behavior they perceived as potentially reactive. The authors then assessed reactivity using iterative coding and analysis. Although they documented 339 reactivity episodes, only two involved behaviors related to study objectives. These findings are consistent with prior research and provide additional evidence that reactivity, though common, need not bias study results. The authors suggest strategies for assessing reactivity that can help reassure skeptics and reinforce the validity of observational data.

Article 7.2

Johnson, J., Avenarius, C., & Weatherford, J. (2006). The active participant-observer: Applying social role analysis to participant observation. Field Methods, 18, 111-134.

Participant observation approaches have been important components of ethnographic research. Generally, however, observation has been emphasized over participation. But there are many ethnographic contexts in which active participation by the ethnographer is advantageous, if not essential, to the collection of quality data. This article provides a framework for analyzing the potential benefits of an ethnographer participating in an active role in a given ethnographic setting. Using theories from organizational studies and the organization of work, a framework for determining the attributes relevant to a given active role for the collection of ethnographic data is presented. Three case studies are analyzed using such a framework. They include an ethnographic study of a fish camp in Alaska; a study of the red-light district in Washington, D.C.; and a study of Chinese and Taiwanese immigrant communities in southern California.

Article 7.3

Repp, A., Nieminen, G., Olinger, E., & Brusca, R. (1988). Direct observation: Factors affecting the accuracy of observers. Exceptional Children, 55, 29-36.

The use of direct observation methods to collect data relevant to research and practice in special education is widespread. Although the reliability of such data has often been addressed, far less attention has focused on the accuracy of these data. The purposes of this article are (a) to review research on factors that adversely affect the accuracy of observers, and (b) to provide recommendations for reducing their possible influence. The areas discussed include reactivity, observer drift; the recording procedure; location of the observation; reliability; expectancy and feedback; and the characteristics of subjects, observers, and settings.