Using observational methods in nursing research
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Using observational methods in nursing research

Jenny Salmon Post-doctoral research fellow, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

Observation is a research data-collection method used generally to capture the activities of participants as well as when and where things are happening in a given setting. It checks description of the phenomena against what the researcher perceives to be fact in a rich experiential context. The method’s main strength is that it provides direct access to the social phenomena under consideration. It can be used quantitatively or qualitatively, depending on the research question. Challenges in using observation relate to adopting the role of participant or non-participant researcher as observer. This article discusses some of the complexities involved when nurse researchers seek to collect observational data on social processes in naturalistic settings using unstructured or structured observational methods in qualitative research methodology. A glossary of research terms is provided.

Nursing Standard. 29, 45,36-41. doi: 10.7748/ns.29.45.36.e8721


Peer review

All articles are subject to external double-blind peer review and checked for plagiarism using automated software.

Received: 30 December 2013

Accepted: 14 April 2014