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​Example Answer for Question 21 Paper 2: A Level Psychology, June 2017 (AQA)

A Level

Section C – Research Methods: Q21 [12 Marks]

Type of Observation

For this observation, I would conduct a covert, naturalistic, non-participant and structured observation. The observation would be covert, and I would pose as a gym member or member of staff so that my observations do not affect the behaviour of the gym users. This would ensure that the behaviour I am observing is natural and that observer bias is minimised. Furthermore, there are no ethical issues with conducting a covert observation in the main gym because the behaviour in question is taking place in a public setting. The observation would therefore take place in a naturalistic (gym) setting and naturalistic observations tend to have higher external validity as the behaviour is being examined in the environment where it naturally occurs. I would not interact or engage with the people I am observing (non-participant) as this will improve my objectivity because I am remaining distant from the participants. Most importantly, I would conduct a structured observation as I would create a list of behavioural categories that I would use to observe gym behaviour.

Operationalised Behavioural Categories

I would include a range of behavioural categories based on the different pieces of equipment in the gym, including Treadmill – Walking/Jogging/Running; Bike – Cycling; Lifting Weights – Arms (biceps/triceps); Lifting Weights – Chest; Lifting Weights – Shoulders; Lifting Weights – Legs, etc. I would also include a category for resting (either standing or seated). I will collect this data using a tally sheet, as shown below, and the number of people engaging in each activity will be recorded every five minutes.

Use of Time/Event Sampling

For this observation, I would use time sampling where I would record the behaviour of everyone in the gym every five minutes. This would allow me to record (using a tally sheet) what different gym users are doing every five minutes and allow me to see whether people move onto different types of exercise at pre-determined intervals. Time sampling would be appropriate as it would allow us to gain a snapshot of activity at pre-determined time intervals. Event sampling would be difficult as you would be required to record every time a person moves from one piece of equipment to another, and this might be difficult to track.  

Assessing Reliability

I will establish the reliability of the data by using two observers, to check for inter-observer reliability. I will operationalise the behavioural categories clearly and train the observers in how to use the tally sheet to record behaviour. Then I will get them both to observe the same gym for one hour and use a correlation test to determine how similar their scores were for each behaviour. If I found a correlation coefficient of .80 or more then I will know that there was a high level of reliability.

[~475 words]

Please Note: These answers have been produced without the knowledge of the mark scheme and merely reflect my attempt at producing a model answer on the day of the exam.

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