Observing Children in Their Natural Worlds : A Methodological Primer, Third Edition book cover
3rd Edition

Observing Children in Their Natural Worlds
A Methodological Primer, Third Edition

ISBN 9781848729582
Published August 7, 2012 by Psychology Press
344 Pages

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Book Description

This book shows readers how to conduct observational methods, research tools used to describe and explain behaviors as they unfold in everyday settings. The book now uses both an evolutionary and a cultural perspective. The methods presented are drawn from psychology, education, family studies, sociology, and anthropology, but the author's primary focus is on children in school, family, and social settings. Readers learn how to make observations in real contexts to help them create a verbal picture of behaviors they see. The importance of considering reliability and validity factors while testing within each environment is emphasized throughout. The author draws from the literature that provides methods for observing animals in their natural habitats, but emphasizes the use of observational methods to solve human problems. The book is organized in the way a researcher conducts observational studies—conceptualizing of the idea, designing and implementing the study, and writing the report. “Things to think about” sections provide an opportunity for students to solidify their understanding of the material and the Glossary defines the key terms introduced in the book.

Highlights of changes in the new edition include:

• The introduction of the cultural perspective in chapter 4 along with the evolutionary (epigenetic theory) perspective and the integration of cultural examples throughout the book.
• More varied examples from developmental psychology, family studies, and education.
• Extensively revised chapter (3) on ethics reflects the current revelations of scientific fraud and the push for researchers to maximize scientific integrity in their community.
• Updated chapter (12) reflects the latest computer technologies used in observational methods including iPhones and Blackberrys for conducting observation, ABC Data Pro and Behavior Tracker for evaluations, and Excel for constructing observational templates.
• Expanded chapter (13) on writing the research report and more on issues of plagiarism (ch. 3). 
• The latest on minimizing observer effects on participants and testing their effectiveness.
• New environmentally friendly design, the Things to Think About sections were retained, but the blank pages for answers were eliminated.

Intended as a supplementary text for advanced undergraduate and/or graduate courses in research methods and/or developmental research or developmental/child psychology taught in psychology, education, human development, and nursing, educators and researchers concerned with assessing children will also appreciate this book’s introduction to observational methods.

Table of Contents

About the Author. Preface. 1.The "Whys" and "Whens" of Using Observational Methods. 2. Science, Psychology, and Research. 3. Ethics in Research. 4. Choosing a Perspective: Qualitative-Insider and Quantitative-Outsider Distinctions. 5. Asking the Research Question: Implications for Design and Specification in Observational Research. 6. Initial Considerations: Entering the Field, Looking Around, and Refining the Plan. 7. Coming up With Categories. 8. Measuring Behavior and Rules for Sampling and Recording. 9. Reliability. 10. Validity. 11.  Indirect Observational Methods. 12. Computer-Assisted Recording and Observational Software Programs, J. Hoch and F. Symons. 13. The Research Report. Glossary. References.

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Anthony D. Pellegrini is a Professor of Psychological Foundations of Education in the Department of Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota – Minneapolis. He received his Ph.D. from The Ohio State University. His research focuses on direct observations of aggression, play, dominance, in children and the social bases of cognitive processes. A Fellow of APA’s Educational and Developmental Psychology divisions, he is also a Traveling Fellow of the British Psychological Society. He has published numerous papers in journals and books in psychology, education, anthropology, and animal behavior.


“Dr. Pellegrini is THE expert in observational methods in our field and as such he has a wealth of examples to illustrate best practices for the scientific use of systematic observations. …The book serves as THE manual for observational researchers and students.  ... Dr. Pellegrini is very effective at communicating complex methodological and scientific concepts in clear and accessible language. …Appropriate for an undergraduate or beginning graduate ... research methods course or [one] on observational methods. ... My colleagues in education and early childhood are fans of the book as well. …This book should be required reading for any observational methods scholar.”Jamie M. Ostrov, University of Buffalo, SUNY, USA

"This book is unique in its focus on observational methodology in studying children.  ...The writing was clear and accessible ... and appropriate for … readers from advanced undergraduates to beginning graduate students. ... A focus on observational methodology would be a welcome addition within [our] research methodology sequence, and this book would be my top choice of readings." - Noel A Card, University of Arizona, USA

“Intended as a manual for students who are actually going to conduct research … The course ... it would suit would be at Honours or postgraduate level in Psychology ... (advanced research methods). … I would consider including it as recommended reading.  I would happily recommend it to ... colleagues in clinical psychology who are supervising research projects without having much background in how to teach research methods.”Helen Davis, Murdoch University, Australia