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The Observational Method


Learn more about how we conduct our observational research: Observational Method Observational Method
Case Study: VideoMapingStudy Video Consumer Mapping Study 

Measuring cross-platform media consumption
The core method used during observational research is a shadowing approach; this technique provides for systematic logging of participant behavior by a trained observer. A typical participant’s observed day starts as soon as the person gets up in the morning and allows us into the home.

At specified (e.g., 10-second) intervals the software records the current state of media and life activities to a data file. The observer accompanies the participant through his or her day, from location to location (e.g., home, work, car, and other locations) as needed. An observer shift change takes place in midafternoon to avoid observer fatigue.

The result of a full day of observation is a fine-grained, complex record of the participant’s day in 10-second intervals, describing the participant’s locations, life activities, media uses (including concurrent media exposures) for the day.

Observation of a suitably large number of participants allows creation of summary measures (e.g., an average media time budget) as well as for group comparisons based on demographics or other group definitions (such as those generated by segmentation analyses).

The shadowing method is time-consuming and logistically demanding. However, we have successfully completed more than 15,000 hours of observation using the technique in a variety of proprietary and published studies.

Center for Media Design
Arts and Journalism Building, Room 205
Ball State University
Muncie, IN 47306

Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. during the academic year, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. during the summer
Phone: 765-285-0123
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