Action Research and Organizational Development

By J. Barton Cunningham | Go to book overview

9
Other Data Gathering Methods: Using Observations and Unobtrusive Measures

It may seem appropriate to use interviews and questionnaires for measuring many aspects of an organization, including values, degrees of satisfaction, or levels of interest. Scaling experts can point to a vast army of highly sophisticated instruments that have been statistically validated and can be used for almost any purpose.

Several facets of organizational life do not lend themselves to questionnaires and interviews. Organizational data are often qualitative, rich in detail, and full of subtle and unique events. These details are hard to obtain by asking a person to assess experience on a five-point scale ranging from extremely unsatisfied to extremely satisfied. Such data includes specific experiences, histories, details, and holistic descriptions.

Observations or unobtrusive measures are often suggested as ways to supplement questionnaires and interviews. This chapter describes the use of participant observation and unobtrusive measures and summarizes some of the difficulties in using them. It then offers a perspective for how they can be used in action research studies.


OBSERVATIONS AND UNOBTRUSIVE MEASURES

Observational and unobtrusive measures are ways of developing information on a setting, its history, processes, personalities, and events. 1 The methods assume that meanings, perceptions, emotions, and beliefs can only partially be recorded with questionnaires and interviews.

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