ASOA15061U  Video Observation Methods: A Micro-Sociological Approach to the Study of Behaviour in Public Places (SUMMER 2019)

Volume 2018/2019

BA/MA Elective course

MSc 2015:

Culture, lifestyle and everyday life


In this course, students will learn how to use video observation methods to carry out systematic empirical investigations. The course will work as a practical experience in carrying out a social scientific study with the use of video observation methods.

In the beginning of the course, students will learn to formulate research questions and hypotheses that are suitable for video observation studies. Their task will be to design and carry out a mini-study that will provide answers to these questions. They will use the internet and the city centre of Copenhagen as their field site for data collection, become familiar with different sample strategies, carry out an actual analysis of the collected data, identify findings, and formulate discussions and conclusions based on their findings.

Through the practical skill of carrying out systematic empirical investigations, students will be able to reflect critically on practices of e.g. rule-breaking, conflict, safety, inequality, class, and gender as played out in their own daily life.

Learning Outcome


* Of video observational methods, their epistemological differences, and their embeddedness in scientific traditions.


* Identify strengths and weaknesses in video observation methods compared to other methods used in the social sciences.

* Formulate research questions and hypotheses suitable for video observation methods.

* Present research findings based on video observation data.

* Gain practical experience with collecting video observation data.

* Learn basic skills for using software for the analysis of video observation data.  

* Develop coding schemes for the interpretation of video observation data related to your research question.

* Conduct a systematic analysis of video observation data.

* Formulate discussions and conclusions based on video observation data.

* Design an empirical investigation based on video observation methods.


* Reflect critically on different sample strategies for video observation studies.

* Reflect on the biases involved in sample selection for video observation data.

* Reflect critically on urban social practices through own observations during the empirical investigation.

Adang, O. M. (2016). A Method for Direct Systematic Observation of Collective Violence and Public Order Policing. Sociological methods & research, 1-26.

Altmann, J. (1974). Observational study of behavior: sampling methods. Behaviour, 49(3), 227-266.

Collins, R. (2008). Violence: A micro-sociological theory. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Costa, M. (2010). Interpersonal distances in group walking. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior34(1), 15-26.

Dabney, D., R. Hollinger, and L. Dugan. 2004. “Who Actually Steals? A Study of Covertly Observed Shoplifters.” Justice Quarterly 21:693– 728.

Dawkins, M. S. (2007) Observing animal behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Graham, K., Tremblay, P. F., Wells, S., Pernanen, K., Purcell, J., & Jelley, J. (2006). Harm, intent, and the nature of aggressive behavior: Measuring naturally occurring aggression in barroom settings. Assessment, 13(3), 280-296.

Goffman, A. 2014. On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Goffman, E. (1972) Interaction Ritual. Harmondsworth: Pinguin.

Goffman, E. (2009). Relations in public. Transaction Publishers.

Hall, E. T., Birdwhistell, R. L., Bock, B., Bohannan, P., Diebold Jr, A. R., Durbin, M., ... & La Barre, W. (1968). Proxemics. Current anthropology9(2/3), 83-108.

Levine, M., Taylor, P. J., & Best, R. (2011). Third parties, violence, and conflict resolution: The role of group size and collective action in the microregulation of violence. Psychological Science, 22(3), 406-412.

Liebst, L. S., Heinskou, M. B., & Ejbye-Ernst, P. (2018). On the Actual Risk of Bystander Intervention: A Statistical Study Based on Naturally Occurring Violent Emergencies. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency.

Lindegaard, M. R., & Bernasco, W. (2018). Lessons Learned from Crime Caught on Camera. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 55(1), 155-186.

Lindegaard, M. R., & Copes, H. (2017). Observational Methods of Offender Decision Making. In W. Bernasco, H. Elffers, & J.-L. Van Gelder (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Offender Decision Making (pp. 498-521). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nassauer, A., & Legewie, N. (2018). Visual Data Analysis: Towards a Methodological Framework for a Novel Trend in Studying Behavior. Sociological Methods and Research.

Reiss Jr, A. J. (1992). The trained incapacities of sociologists. Sociology and its publics, 297-315.

Roberts, J. C. (2007). Barroom aggression in Hoboken, New Jersey: don't blame the bouncers!. Journal of Drug Education37(4), 429-445.

Sampson, R. J., and S. W. Raudenbush. (1999) Systematic Social Observation of Public Spaces: A New Look at Disorder in Urban Neighborhoods. American Journal of Sociology 105:603– 51.

Schweingruber, D., & McPhail, C. (1999). A method for systematically observing and recording collective action. Sociological methods & research27(4), 451-498.

Townsley, M., & Grimshaw, R. (2013). The consequences of queueing: Crowding, situational features and aggression in entertainment precincts. Crime prevention and community safety, 15(1), 23-47.

Verbeek, P. (2008). Peace Ethology. Behaviour 145:1497-524.

Winlow, S., Hobbs, D., Lister, S., & Hadfield, P. (2001). Get ready to duck. Bouncers and the realities of ethnographic research on violent groups. British Journal of Criminology 41(3), 536-548

Students of Sociology, Anthropology, Psychology, Behavioural Ecology, Criminology, and Conflict Studies.
Lectures, class instructions, exercises, fieldwork
Continuous feedback during the course of the semester

Students will receive feedback at the parts of their portfolio developed throughout the course: formulation of research questions and hypotheses, development of their research design, decision on their analytical approach, and formulation of discussions and conclusions.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Course participation
Active participation, which Means:
- formulating research questions, designing the study, collecting video data, analysing video data, reporting on findings in oral presentation that involves, discussing results, and drawing conclusions.
Exam registration requirements

Sociology students must be enrolled under MSc Curriculum 2015 or BSc Curriculum to take this exam.

Marking scale
passed/not passed
Censorship form
No external censorship
Exam period

Submission dates and time will be available at KUnet, Exchange students and danish full degree guest students please see the homepage of Sociology; and


At re-exam, the form of examination is the same as ordinary exam.
If the form of examination is ”active participation” the re-examination form is always “free written take-home essay”.

Criteria for exam assesment

ase see the learning outcome.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 28
  • Course Preparation
  • 106
  • Preparation
  • 72
  • Total
  • 206