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Observing «and» Analyzing Communication Behavior

John A. Courtright

This is a book about communication behavior: how we conceptualize it, observe it, measure it, and analyze it.
The 1970s and 1980s were times when communication behavior was a primary interest of many communication scholars. The aim of this book is to reignite some interest in and passion about how human communication behavior should be studied. It presents the best advice, techniques, cautions, and controversies from the 1970s and 1980s and then updates them. Several chapters also introduce statistical methods and procedures to allow readers to analyze behavioral data.
This book is a useful resource for communication scholars and graduate students to guide their study of communication behavior.
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4 Observing and Recording Communication Behavior

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Chapter 4

Observing and Recording Communication Behavior

Early in their excellent book on analyzing behavioral observation data, Suen and Ary (1989, p. 13) assert that the observation of behavior cannot proceed until the answers to three fundamental questions are determined: what to observe, whom to observe, and when to observe (including how often). A fourth question is equally relevant; namely, where to observe; i.e., what is the setting and how might it influence observation?

The first and third of these questions (what and when) will be addressed in this chapter. Because the topic of setting (where) is relevant to both coding and observing communication behavior, it will be discussed in Chapter 5. In contrast, the question of whom to observe will not be explored in this book. That topic boils down to a discussion of participant or subject sampling, e.g., random sampling, stratified random sampling, convenience sampling, and so forth. The overwhelming majority of the readers of this book are well-versed on the issues surrounding sampling. For those who require an introduction to the topic, virtually every textbook on empirical research methods will contain a chapter on subject sampling. There is no need to repeat those discussions yet again.

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