Observation is one of the best ways of gaining insight into a respondent’s actual behaviour.
SELECTION OF METHOD
Observation is an ethnographic tool used to gain an understanding of the behaviour of a group of people. The method is rarely used alone and works especially well as a complement to, for example, face-to-face interviews that aim to map behaviour that the respondents wish to display or believe that they display.
There may be a significant difference between the respondents’ self-perceived behaviour and their actual behaviour of respondents. By observing discrepancies and subsequently asking the respondents to reflect on them, it is possible to obtain a nuanced picture of the aspects that truly matter in a purchasing situation.
Consumers have a tendency to, consciously or subconsciously, exaggerate how much healthy and organic produce they buy. Interviews and observations of the consumer in the actual context helps create a more nuanced picture of how and why the perceived behaviour deviates from the actual behaviour.
By supplementing with on-the-spot interviews and, possibly, follow-up interviews, it is possible to gain a unique insight into the considerations that the consumers makes when making a purchase, and an understanding of the underlying motivations behind their actions.
Participant observation is an ethnographic method whereby the observers experience the same physical sensations as the respondents, by participating in the same activities. This helps create a better understanding of what the activity in question entails, and creates a closer and more relaxed connection with the respondents as they tend to feel less as though they are being monitored, as in other observation situations, or cross-examined, as in interview situations.
MEGAFON was organising a survey of an integration project aimed at women, but the women had a poor command of Danish and it was obvious that they did not feel safe in the interview situation. By participating in an activity on equal terms with the women around the table, who were knitting and sewing as part of the integration project, trust was built, which ultimately made it easier to discuss the topic at hand.
Shadowing is a specific type of observation where there is constant focus on one object or person. This may be beneficial when it comes to, for example, gaining an understanding of how to optimise hospital administration, by shadowing a patient’s physical notes through the system.
This method provides and insight into how different employees and functions work together/around each other. Over the course of a shadowing session, questions are asked and discussions raised about an object and its location and meaning along the way, in order to supplement the observation with attitudes and reasoning behaviour patterns. This makes it possible to prepare detailed recommendations for how work processes could be optimized, for example.
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