The Science of Behaviour

Case studies and field work observations involve the researcher fitting into the environment, to be accepted by the participants the researcher will need to have appropriate materials, equipment, look the part and speak in the same style of language. (Hammersley, M and Atkinson, P. 1995) Observations allow researchers to see what is really happening. Observation is however a skill that is developed over many years of carrying out studies. Researchers studying children often choose this method as they are more practical than questionnaires and interviews. Researchers using observations obtain their findings by either joining in the situation they are observing, known as direct observation or observing from a distance known as indirect observation.

The advantages of observations are that they take place in real life natural surroundings giving access to high valid data. Observations can produce data that’s rich in meaning and may give access to other wise hidden data. Participant observers can often obtain detailed data over of long period of time. Covert participant observation may be the only way of accessing hidden data or hostile groups. Also researchers don’t have to decide what they’re looking for in advance of beginning their study.

They can make decisions about what is and isn’t significant behaviour as events occur and unfold naturally. The disadvantages are that researchers may not be able to retain their objectivity or avoid becoming involved in the life of the group. Researchers may also influence behaviour. If covert observations are carried out there are possibilities of serious ethical implications and problems associated with it. Finally the reliability of observational data collection is relatively low because observations are often personal and non repeatable. (Berk, L.E. 2003)

Morris and Twitchin (1990) state that journals and essays are useful for accessing, researchers and participant’s views and experiences during the process and personal self-evaluative and reflective insights. However they can be demanding for researchers and participants and can vary in the depth of insight provided. (Cited in Rickinson, M. 2005) McNeil states that a method is proved reliable when someone else or indeed that same person repeats the same method at a different time and the results are the same. (McNeil, P. 1990)

The skills and tasks for research and professional practice can be similar. To begin with both need an enquiring mind. This helps to look for solutions, ideas and move things forwards. The ability to use a computer, have good literacy skills, good writing and recording skills are all essential for both research and professional practice. The ability to be able to network helps to share ideas, results and increase contacts for the future. Working as a professional usually involves working within a team, tasks are allocated to the person with the relevant skills to get the work completed. In research according to Rickinson (2006) the skills required to be a good researcher are methodological skills, managerial skills and interpersonal skills. Again it is rare that one person has all of these skills and therefore researchers work in a team. Research needs careful scheduling, so time management is essential to research as in professional practice when targets have to be met and work prioritised.

According to Watkinson (2003) as a member of staff confidentiality should be maintained at all times, work should not be discussed outside of the professional work place. In research this may not be the case. Depending on the methods of research and the ethics greed to by the participant’s discussions may take place between other researchers and participants. Researchers also have free reign to complete their research programme. They are able to chose their methods, participants and produce their results on their terms, whereas professionals have guidelines and rules and management to negotiate with. Ethics are important to both researchers and professionals, rules are in place to keep employees, participants and children safe, and ensure they are not subject to abuse of any kind.

On a final note evaluation is an important skill relating to a research project it should incorporate plans, actions and both the written and oral presentations. Judgement needs to be made on the strengths and weaknesses, the successes and failures, of what has been achieved and work should be valid, reliable and representative. (Yates S.J 2005) All professionals work to these standards and results are measured by the success of the project.


Bell, J. (1993) Doing Your Research Project 2nd edition, Buckingham: Open University Press

Berk, L. E. (2003) Child Development, Boston: Allyn and Bacon

Carlson, N.R, Buskist, W and Martin, G.N. (2000) Psychology The Science of Behaviour, Massachusetts: Allyn and Bacon

Dalziel, D & Henthorne, K (2005) Parent’s/Carers’ Attitudes Towards School Attendance, Nottingham: DFES Publications

Gillham, B. (2000) The Research Interview, London: Continium

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