S502- Evaluation Processes in Research
Mark D. Thomas, Ph.D., LCSW

Assignment #4 ? Unobtrusive Observation in Qualitative Research

You are collecting data for a qualitative research study examining interaction patterns of humans at OPEN 12 step groups (e.g., Alcoholics Anonymous). Your task is to make a single continuous observation at an open 12 step group meeting. Record your observations using the guidelines below. Also, see Engel and Schutt (2013) chapters 10 and 11 for further guidance.

Field notes need to include the following elements.
1. The time you entered and exited the field; the date of the field observation; location of the field observation; and a brief descriptive topic label that captures the essence of the field session. (1 point)

2. A Description of the setting. This includes a description of the physical space including the furniture, decor, lighting, smells, and anything else that catches your attention. Also pay attention to the relationship of the setting to the community in which it is located and the pace or atmosphere of the place. First impressions are powerful and often convey what an outsider would have to say about the organization and its physical structure.
(5 points)

3. A Description of the people in the setting.
a. Who is in attendance? How many attended (excluding yourself)? What types of people? How many females? How many people of color? What is the range of ages of the attendees? Comment on the socio-economic status of the participants. Is the group predominantly middle class? Working class?
b. How would you characterize the personality of the group (e.g., friendly warm, or people don?t appear connected or interact)?
c. Include a list of people and their roles (make your best guess), short demographic and descriptive portraits of each person, and descriptions of their relationship to each other. Each time a person enters the site, notes should include a short description of the newcomer.
(15 points)

4. A Short description of the events of the day. This should include what your day was like previous to the observation and how you were feeling in general prior to entering the field. It should include a general overview of the pattern of the visit. This would include observation of your own behavior and thoughts such as where you located yourself during the observation, what the reaction of others were to you, how your dress compared to the observed, what your reactions were during the observation and how this varied over the time of the observation. This recording provides a picture of the rhythm of the site.
(4 points)

5. A Description of interaction among people in the setting
a. Did you notice a hierarchy in terms of status? Who appears to have the leadership role?
i. What do you believe is the nature of the hierarchy, e.g., income, level of attractiveness, experience in the 12 steps?
ii. Did you observe that some individuals talk more of the time than others (this can be an indication of status)? Roughly, how much did each member talk?

b. Did the group members provide their full attention to whoever was speaking?

c. Did anyone discuss their current doctor-prescribed medication? If so, what was the group?s prevailing attitude toward this topic? Did they equate the taking of doctor-prescribed medication with the use of alcohol and other drugs?

d. How would you characterize the level of religiosity of the meeting? Low, medium or high and what is your rationale for this characterization?
i. A low level of religiosity means that there is no mention of religion (e.g., no recitation of prayers), except for references to a ?higher power.?
ii. A Medium level of religiosity means that there is at least one prayer recited during the course of the meeting
iii. A high level of religiosity means that there is more than one prayer recited during the course of the meeting.

e. Count the number of times there was a reference to religion.

f. Was relapse discussed during the course of the meeting? If so, how frequently?

g. What else did you learn about the individuals in your setting?
(21 points)

6. Your overall impressions of the day and of the setting. (If you were to make multiple observations, your impression can change over time and are recorded to gauge how understanding of the site evolves.)
(4 points)

Remember that your ?experience? at your research site should be related to larger contexts. These may include description of the neighborhood and discussion of changes in the neighborhood in which the site is located, personnel or policy changes and so forth. For example, research in a church social service program should record events in the church that impact on the site. The number of people around a housing project or at a church during a particular setting should also be recorded in order to understand the frame of the micro setting.