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Seven Rules For Observational Research

Powerful Essays
Seven rules for observational research: how to watch people do stuff
Observational research, ethnography, or, in plain English, watching people do stuff, seems to be hot these days. Newsweek touts it ("Enough Talk," August 18, 1997), which means it’s getting to be mainstream, but I find that a lot of clients aren’t very comfortable with it.
Certainly, compared to traditional focus groups, mini-groups, or one-on-one interviews, observational research accounts for a pitiably small portion of most research budgets. Yogi Berra’s famous line that "You can observe a lot just by watching" is widely acknowledged, but observation remains the most under-utilized qualitative technique in marketing research.
One of the reasons seems to be that many clients (and researchers) just don’t know how to get value out of watching. Nothing sours people on a good approach more permanently than a few "interesting but useless" projects.
Learning from watching is, in fact, hard. If you ask a not-very-deep question in a focus group, you still may get a deep and revealing answer. But if you don’t know how to think about what you’ll see when you watch normal people doing stuff, you won’t learn much from it. And in observational research, as in all qualitative research, it’s the "thinking about" that’s the key.
Since observation skills don’t get sharpened up in real life the way questioning skills do, you need to train yourself to see, learn, and think when you watch people do stuff. It takes some practice, and some discipline. I don’t pretend to have mastered the art, but I’ve learned some techniques that will help. So here are my "Seven Rules for Observational Research."
Look for the ordinary, not the extraordinary
Remember the qualitative project when the lady in the third seat on the right side of the table told the story that really made it all come clear to you? You know how you wait behind the mirror for the moderator to show the new concept so you can hear real consumers respond to it for the first time and all the questions that have been running around your mind for weeks will finally be answered? That’s probably not going to happen in an observational study.
Most observational projects I’ve worked on have begun with a pretty nervous period while we all get past our first impression that nothing’s happening! People aren...

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...go about certain situation etc.
All in all, he gives the impression just as he explained at the beginning “Yogi Berra’s famous line that "You can observe a lot just by watching" is widely acknowledged, but observation remains the most under-utilized qualitative technique in marketing research. “.

I agree with Walt Dicke. Although his seven-steps are not literally found in our marketing book, his point should be well addressed. Firms are not really pushing the observation research as they should be. It’s an excellent tool for the marketing researcher to record behavioural patterns as Walt Dickie was trying to point out in Rules 1,2,3. A wide variety of information can be obtained. Although some major disadvantages to observation research are that attitudes, expectations, intentions are not observable, Walt Dickie suggests following rules 4,5,6 to help alleviate from these problems. He also suggests that when the information is gathered that a qualitative analysis be done. Whether it’s time-consuming or not or whether it under-utilized by many one thing is certain and that is that observation is the most direct, and at times the only method for collecting certain data.
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