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Approaches to testing inter-observer reliability of field-collected behavioral data

, : Approaches to testing inter-observer reliability of field-collected behavioral data. Waterbirds 22(3): 348-357

An examination of inter-observer reliability was done in the context of a study of courtship feeding and reproductive success in Black-legged Kittiwakes (Rissa tridactyla). Two observers simultaneously scored events taking place in the same nests in six sessions (N = 28, five sessions and N = 24, one session) lasting a total of 14 h. The behavior patterns scored were rates of adult returns, food solicitations, courtship feeds and copulations. Percent agreements and Pearson correlations were calculated to estimate reliability, and the applicability of each method was assessed in relation to the goals of the study. Correlation coefficients were judged to be the most appropriate method. In the reliability sample, data on adult returns and successful copulations were scored reliably (r gtoreq 0.7, P < 0.05); data on food solicitations showed evidence of systematic error, while all the other variables were affected by random error. As the hours subjected to reliability assessment represented only 7% of the time spent in observation, seasonal plots were made for each variable and the observers compared. In this case, most variables showed evidence of systematic error and only data on copulation attempts displayed a high and significant r value and no systematic error. The implications of these results for the courtship feeding study varied depending upon the type of error and the questions to be answered. Extensive training for inexperienced observers, fewer nests, a larger reliability sample and wiser choice of variables to record would improve inter-observer reliability.


DOI: 10.2307/1522110

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