what observational data can I include?


I wonder if anyone can help. I'm getting so confused on this. I am doing a series of case studies, looking at a therapeutic activity being carried out in different settings. In each setting I have observed an activity group, and then interviewed a set number of people from that group to get their opinion of the activity. However, in the data I have included observation notes that include the whole group. Is that allowed? My supervisor thinks not. In practice what has happened is that, say the group has 10 members, well I have observed the whole group and then interviewed 4 (because of communication problems/time issues that is all I felt I could manage). Then in writing up my data I have included observations of the whole group and the interviews from the 4. So I may have interviewed Mr W, Mr X, Mrs Y and Mrs Z, and will discuss what they did in the group and said in the interviews but will mention that during the group activity Miss A or Mr B did something quite interesting. Can I mention that? Is it OK if I make it clear that they were in the group but not interviewed? In this case, I would say the setting is the case study. Can anyone help me clarify this, and perhaps be able to recommend any literature that could back this approach up, or am I going really wrong here.I am becoming more and more confused. Many thanks in advance.

Avatar for Caterpillar27

Hi Sunflower,

I think it would depend on whether you gained informed consent from those people within the group. If they consented to take part in the research and had knowledge that whatever you observed may be used by you for your research I think it would be fine. If they did not formally consent to you using your observations of them in your research I don't think you can. You perhaps need to look back at what your information sheet and consent forms covered and go from there.

I hope this is helpful :-)


thanks Caterpillar, I think ethically I'm OK as before each group I established oral consent with everyone there, explained what I was doing and why etc. I've spoken again to supervisor and I think the reason she was wary was that it was unclear who I was including in my data. So she is happy for me to use the whole group so long as I explain what I am doing and why. Thanks for your reply:-)