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Dictionary

NATURALISTIC DATA

Jonathan Potter

The form of records of human activities that are neither elicited by nor affected by the actions of social researchers. For much of the twentieth century social scientists worked predominantly with materials that involved self-reports (social surveys, interviews, questionnaires) or measures of the effects of experimental manipulations. Early critics of this work argued for more use of unobtrusive measures (Webb et al. [1966] 1999) and systematic observation (Barker, 1968). Yet in practice the unobtrusive measures proposed mainly took the form of traces of gross behaviour (worn flooring identifies popular museum exhibits; contents of human garbage identifies consumption habits) with relatively little in the way of theory to deal with the more complex records noted (diaries, newspapers). The observation research proposed by Barker involved grossly defined behaviours and, in these pre-video days, typically involved some kind of tick-box time sampling of occurrences. These researchers were hampered by shortcomings in theory, transcription, ...

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