Non-participant observation online: using screen recording and trace analysis for collecting and analyzing individual behaviors online
Non-participant observation is a data collection method in which the researcher observes events, activities and interactions with the aim of gaining a direct understanding of a phenomenon in its context (Liu & Maitlis, 2010). It is different from participant observational methods because the researcher has no contact with the informant, but rather records a situation involving real individual reactions and behaviors (Giannelloni & Vernette, 2001). Since subjects are seldom able to fully explain their actions and intentions (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000), they provide a different kind and quality of data compared to that collected through interviews or self-reports (Liu & Mitlis, 2010).
However, non-participant observation has mainly been used as a method for observing offline
behaviors although online behaviors differ significantly. Moreover, the Internet offers a different type of data that helps analyzing individual behaviors more deeply. Therefore, this paper introduces a non-participant observation approach to collect and analyze online behaviors of individuals in a qualitative fashion.