Sunday, April 19, 2009

Non-Directive Research and Nose Prints

It’s hard to believe but it’s been thirty-five years since Eugene J. Webb, Donald T. Campbell, Lee Sechrest wrote their book entitle Unobstrusive Measures. They were interested new and unused methods of obtaining information.

Their approach was to observe without being observed. They knew that research methodology can pollute results. This remains true today. For example, if you ask someone about their opinion of Buicks, they will tell you, and often in great detail. The respondent may not own a car but they will be more than willing to give their opinion.

This is one reason that I like non-directive pictographs because they tend not to presuppose information. The simply provide context and invite the respondent to “tell a story.”

The authors of Unobtrusive Measures used a non-directive means to discover which exhibits were the most popular at a children’s museum. Direct interviews with young children would not have worked. Instead they regularly cleaned the windows of the exhibits and noted the number and position of the nose prints. That way they could gauge both popularity and approximate the age of the children that showed interest.
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