Implementing observational research methods to study team performance in construction management

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


The evolution of research in the area of construction engineering and management has moved toward the use of quantitative metrics and research methods for identifying and evaluating the impact of events or procedures on the construction process. While quantitative research methods can be very important for answering certain research questions, there are important reasons for adopting qualitative or mixed methodology studies to gain a better understanding of complex phenomena. This paper explores the use of observational studies and their potential use within the field of construction research. Observational studies can provide answers to "what" phenomena occurred, particularly when people are involved in a process, along with gaining insights into "why" the phenomena occurred. This paper discusses two types of observational studies, structured and unstructured, and provides a procedure for their implementation within construction research. To clearly demonstrate the methodology, a case study focused on the investigation of two different versions of an educational simulation application, the virtual construction simulator (VCS), is used to illustrate the benefits and challenges of implementing mixed methodology observational studies. The case study involved the video recording and analysis of interactions between student team members when using the VCS application for a construction sequencing task. The video recordings were analyzed, and important insights were identified, both qualitative and quantitative. Through content analysis, it was determined that the improvements made in a new version of the VCS application were beneficial, and the detailed observational studies identified insights into why the revisions in the application yielded improved results. This case study details the steps and considerations involved in planning an observational study, as well as the benefits and challenges that researchers may encounter when using observational research methodologies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)76-86
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Construction Engineering and Management
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Building and Construction
  • Industrial relations
  • Strategy and Management


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