Unobtrusive Measures

Raymond M. Lee

in Management

ISBN: 9780199846740
Published online January 2013 | | DOI:
Unobtrusive Measures


It has long been understood that the act of eliciting data from research participants is capable of affecting the character of the responses obtained, and that the presence of the researcher within the research situation can introduce potentially distorting factors that need to be taken into consideration. Worries about the extent to which the social sciences rely on methods that are “reactive” have encouraged interest in what came to be dubbed “unobtrusive measures” (known also as “nonreactive measures”), sources of data that avoid problems caused by the researcher’s presence or involvement in the data-gathering process. Such sources include the physical traces produced by people as they traverse their environment, data derived from nonparticipant observation, and the use of documents of various kinds. The data produced by unobtrusive methods can be used alone, but an important strength of such methods is their use in combination with other methods so that the weaknesses inherent in data produced by one set of means can be offset by using data produced in a different way with different strengths and different weaknesses. A further important feature of the literature on unobtrusive measures is its stress on unusual, imaginative, or innovative sources of data rather than relying on the standard repertoire of approaches to be found in research methods textbooks.

Article.  8692 words. 

Subjects: Business and Management

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