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Dictionary

STRUCTURED OBSERVATION

Jeanette Garwood

A systematic method of data collection, where there is considerable pre-coding and the observation takes the form of recording when, how often, or for how long the precoded behaviours occur. Observing usually means watching and listening, although it may entail just watching or listening. By contrast, informal or casual observation is unstructured, and may form the basis of future structured observation. Informal or casual observation methods are sometimes seen as less objective than structured observation, because the observer may be focusing on behaviours without a clear theoretical framework, and may not be coding the behaviours in a reliable, that is, repeatable way. The counter viewpoint is that a theoretical framework can act as a strait-jacket that distorts reality. Structured observation is used widely in the social sciences, from working on the behaviour of children and animals in the development and use of play behaviours, to group decision making in adults, ...

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