Disguised Observation: Students Food and Drink Preferences Report (Assessment)
As the aim of the research is to food and drink preferences of students and the peak hours, disguised observation will be used. Disguised observation implies that the subjects of the research remain unaware that they are being observed. Its advantages include the subjects’ natural and unchanged behavior and high probability of the research to be unbiased (Neelankavil 2015). Compared to the undisguised observation, this method guarantees that subjects will not be able to change their behavior due to becoming aware that they are being observed. Disguised observations can be unethical as subjects’ consent is impossible to obtain. In this case, subjects will be observed in a public space, where their behavior cannot be considered private, and thus no ethical challenges will arise. To ensure that subjects’ behavior is natural and unbiased, the method of disguised observation is recommended.
Structured observation is proposed as the fitting observational method because the research should use specific, explicit rules for behavior observation and recording (Bryman & Bell 2015). The researcher has a certain understanding of what he or she is looking for and how the behavior should be recorded. In this case, the researcher will record the number of students at restaurants to determine peak times, types of meals that students order, and the exact numbers of ordered meals to determine which ones are bought more frequently. It is suggested to use “ad libitum” sampling when the researcher records what is happening at the time (types of purchased meals, the number of students at university restaurants, etc.). Alternatively, “focal sampling” can also be used; the researcher needs to record all examples of the behavior that is interesting in terms of the research displayed by a specific individual (in this case, multiple individuals will be observed).
Unstructured observation appears to be unfitting because it aims to record as many details about the behavior as possible, while for this research certain factors that have to be observed and analyzed are determined. The specification in detail will help the researcher gather accurate data for analysis; all details of one behavior are not needed here as only two major areas are measured: preferences of learners and peak times. The advantage of the structured participant observation is that it provides highly detailed data; however, it can also be contextual, and the behavior of participants could be different in a different context (e.g., if the university holds “vegan days”, the number of purchased vegan meals will also increase) (Bluyssen 2013). Furthermore, the observer will also be able to record nonverbal responses of subjects (if relevant) to determine how their preferences might affect others.
Figure 1. Proposed observation form.
The contrived setting is unsuitable in this case as the researcher aims to record data in a natural (university restaurants) setting, as it will help the researcher collect more relevant data. Natural environments are more preferred because subjects stay relaxed in their natural environment, and reactivity is minimized as well (Boote & Matthews 1999). The spontaneously occurring behavior of participants is also an advantage of this method. The observation of participants in a laboratory would reflect their biased behavior thus undermining the aims of the research. However, although subjects’ bias is often not present in the natural setting, the observer’s bias can be a problem.
Bluyssen, PM 2013, The healthy indoor environment: how to assess occupants’ wellbeing in buildings , Routledge, New York.
Boote, J & Mathews, A 1999, ”Saying is one thing; doing is another”: the role of observation in marketing research’, Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal , vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 15-21.
Bryman, A & Bell, E 2015, Business research methods , Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Neelankavil, JP 2015, International business research , Routledge, New York.