Observation Methods – Definition, Types, Examples, Advantages


The observation method is described as a method to observe and describe the behavior of a subject. As the name suggests, it is a way of collecting relevant information and data by observing. It is also referred to as a participatory study because the researcher has to establish a link with the respondent and for this has to immerse himself in the same setting as theirs. Only then can he use the observation method to record and take notes.also we will discuss

Primary Research – Meaning, Process and Advantages,

Primary research is a research process where data is collected directly from your target audience with questionnaires and other tools.We will discuss Observation method in data collection,Sampling methods for Observational Data,Types of observation method,Advantages of controlled observation method,Limitations of controlled observation method  and much more…Let’s get started

Meaning and examples

Observation method is used in cases where you want to avoid an error that can be a result of bias during evaluation and interpretation processes. It is a way to obtain objective data by watching a participant and recording it for analysis at a later stage.

A researcher can use the observation method in a Montessori school and record the behavior of the children at a young age. Are the children comfortable sharing their tiffin at such an early age will make a good study for the researcher? In this example, the researcher can observe and record the details objectively. Observation data collection method is associated with a few ethical issues as it needs the full consent of a research participant.

Observation method in data collection can be

  • Structured observation method – This is a systematic observation method where data is collected as per a pre-defined schedule. The specific variable is used in this method for data collection.
  • Unstructured observation method – The unstructured observation method is conducted in a free and open manner without using any pre-determined objectives, schedules or variables.

Sampling methods for Observational Data

Recording or sampling method of observation method data

The researcher has a vital role to play as he will have to collect, record and classify the data appropriately. The primary sampling methods are

  • Event sampling – In the event sampling observation method the researcher decides beforehand what events or behavior he will record and which ones he is going to ignore
  • Time sampling – In the time sampling observation method, the researcher chooses the time when he will observe. He makes a record of the occurrence only in the specified and pre-determined period
  • Target-time or instantaneous sampling –  In the target-time or instantaneous sampling observation method, the researcher decides beforehand the moments when the observation will happen and will be recorded at that moment. Everything that happens before or after that moment is of no consequence hence is typically ignored

Types of observation method

Types of observation method

The different types of observation method are as follows-

1) Controlled observations

The controlled observation is carried out in a closed space. It is the researcher who has the authority to decide the place and the time where and when the observation will take place. He also decides who the participants will be and in what circumstances will he use the standardized process.

The participants are chosen for a variable group randomly. The researcher observes and records a detailed and descriptive data of behavior and divides it into a distinct category. Sometimes the researcher codes the action as per an agreed scale by using a behavior schedule. The coding can include letters or numbers or a range to measure behavior intensity and describe its characteristics.

The collected data is often turned into statistics. In a controlled observation method, the participants are informed by the researcher about the aim of the research. This makes them aware of being observed. The researcher avoids direct contact during the observation method and generally uses a two-way mirror to observe and record details.

Advantages of controlled observation method

  1. The data and information received from a controlled observation method are structured and analytical. It is thus easy to analyze it quickly and is considered less time-consuming than the other observation methods
  2. Other researchers can easily replicate the report that has been created through the controlled observation method. They use a similar observation schedule, and this makes it easy to test for reliability.
  3. As the controlled observation method is several quick observations can be conducted within a short time frame. Thus the researcher can collect large samples which makes it easier for him to generalize a large population

Limitations of controlled observation method 

  1. The controlled observation method lacks validity because when the participants are aware of being observed their behavior will automatically change

2) Naturalistic observations

Social scientists and psychologists generally use the naturalistic observation method. The process involves observing and studying the spontaneous behavior of the participants in open or natural surroundings. The role of the researcher is to find and record whatever he can see and observe in natural habitat.

Advantages of naturalistic observation method 

  1. When a participant is in a natural habitat, his flow of behavior is natural and not forced.
  2. The studies have gained better ecological validity than the controlled observation method
  3. The naturalistic observation method is used by the researchers to create new ideas. The researcher has the chance to observe the total situation and can find avenues that other people have not thought about

Limitations of naturalistic observation methods

  1. The naturalistic observation method facilitates observations on a micro-scale. It often lacks a representative sample and thus cannot help the researcher in making a generalization that relates to a broader society
  2. In this type of observation method, the researcher needs proper training to recognize aspects that are significant and worth attention.
  3. The observations through naturalistic observation method are not as reliable as the researcher wants them to be because it is not possible to control some variables. This is why other researchers cannot similarly repeat the study or research.
  4. Establishing the cause and effect relationship is not possible because the researcher cannot manipulate the variables

3) Participant observations

The participant observation method is often considered a variant of the naturalistic observation method because it has some similarities with it. The point of difference is that the researcher is not a distant observer anymore because he has joined the participants and become a part of their group. He does this to get a more in-depth and greater insight into their lives.

The researcher interacts with other members of the group freely, participates in their activities, studies their behavior and acquires a different way of life. Participant observation can be overt or covert.

  1. Overt –When the researcher asks permission from a group to mingle the observation method is known as overt. He does so by revealing his true purpose and real identity to the group with whom he wants to mingle
  2. Covert– When the researcher does not show either his true identity or real meaning to the group he wants to join then the observation is known as covert. He keeps both concealed and takes on a false role and identity to enter and mingle in the group. He generally acts as if he is a genuine member of that group

Advantages of Participant Observation methods

  1. It is easy to study and observe the natural behavior of the participants in the group by becoming a part of that group. The respondents generally do not know that they are being observed and behavior recorded, so they are not restrained or constrained in their activities and behavior
  2. The researcher becomes understanding by following the events of the respondents from such a close angle.
  3. During the participant observation method, the researcher develops a good and healthy relationship with the respondents. This rapport helps him to participate in all the activities and make observations with a detached mind
  4. The participant observation method helps the research to observe the actual behavior of the respondents and create an inclusive and intensive case study of that group
  5. Actual participation in the activities provides the researcher with an opportunity to converse freely with other members about various events, their meaning and their importance to them. He gains an in-depth knowledge which would not have been possible only by observation.

Limitations of Participant Observation methods

  1. It is challenging to work undercover. For example, the researcher will have only to observe and not record in front of others because he will not want to blow his cover. He relies heavily on his memory which can be faulty at times
  2. Sometimes the researcher becomes too involved in the intricacies of that group. There is a higher chance of losing his objectivity because his reporting will be selective and dependent on his memory
  3. The emotional participation of the researcher can result in bias interpretation. He will be influenced to some degree and a time might come when he would start supporting them unconditionally because their views and behavior will ultimately become his. This will result in a personal viewpoint of the scenario and not an objective or scientific report
  4. In the participant observation method, the researcher’s experience becomes intense because of his proximity to the group members but the range becomes limited
  5. The researcher misses many vital points because of his familiarity
  6. Proximity with the group will involve him in group factionalism, and he will have to take sides. He then loses his objectivity as an impartial observer with whom everyone is ready to cooperate.

Advantages of Observation Method

Advantages of the observation method

  • Provides direct access to research phenomena
  • By observing firsthand, the researcher can collect, check and record accurate data
  • Greater flexibility in terms of application
  • Generate a permanent record of phenomena and the researcher or others can refer with it later
  • The organization method is one of the simplest methods of data collection. It does not require too much technical knowledge
  • The observation method is one of the best ways to formulate a hypothesis. The researcher can observe and come to know about the activities, perceptions, likes and dislikes to form a theory on his subject
  • Observation method is one of the most common methods used in all sciences and is very easy to follow and accept
  • In some instances observation is the only available tool to collect essential data and information
  • The observation method does not require the willingness of the participant to record. The researcher can observe from a distance and record his findings

Disadvantages of Observation Method

  • Faces a severe disadvantage because it takes a longer time frame compared to other data collection methods
  • There is a chance of higher observer bias in the observation method
  • Several personal behaviors are not open for observation and this proves a limitation in case of observation method
  • There is a higher chance of the observer influencing the behavior of a sample group elements
  • Uncertainties of the event cannot determine the actual time when the event will take place, and this is why every occurrence that is open to observation cannot be observed
  • Many of the incidents are abstract like love, affection and the researcher can’t gain an exact and correct account of those
  • The social phenomena generalization made by observation are not considered reliable as it cannot be used for lab experiments
  • In some cases, it is seen that two persons observing the same phenomena come at different results and this can lead to faulty perceptions
  • Observation method is considered an expensive affair as it requires hard effort, plenty of time and high cost

What is primary research?

The research methodology that is used by the researchers to collect data directly is called primary research. The data is raw and collected by direct means by the researchers.

During primary data collection, the researcher doesn’t depend on previously done research.

In simple terms, they own the collected data. Primary research is done to address a concerning problem that is assigned for research. Primary research gives an in-depth analysis of the problem statement that makes further research easy.

Conducting primary research is a useful skill that a good researcher should possess. It not only makes your research work easy but also supplements your secondary research process. Moreover, it is also helpful in writing projects and journals.

There are certain examples of primary research that prevailed in the research process. These examples include observations done on the respondents, interviewsfocus groups, surveys, etc. these methods are good in conducting the primary research process.

As a researcher, you can start with primary research options for heading towards the research process.

Primary research is a lot better at services. It gives the researchers a lot of specific results about the research topic. A focus group would be asked specific questions about a topic. It helps the researcher to design their questions and other tools for the research process. In this way, the information is much targeted to the lead researcher’s needs. Further, the research firm uses various statistical models for conducting primary research.

Different Forms of the Primary Research Process

Different Forms of the Primary Research Process

Primary research work is done in every field of research, where the data is required.  It has some forms that are used by the researchers to do primary research.

These forms are efficient in conducting the research process swiftly. In the corporate world also, primary research is necessary to conduct market research.  Nowadays, meaningful data is more valuable than gold. So, conducting the research process for obtaining the data is important.

All organizations and business corporations conduct primary research for obtaining validated data.  The companies gather data that are authentic and have no alterations. So, primary research is necessary for them.

Following are the forms of primary research that are done by the researchers:

1. Conducting interviews or telephonic conversations

Interviews are basic tools for conducting primary research.  It is part of the qualitative research method that comprises collecting data from different persons through interviews. These interviews can be conducted in person (face-to-face) or telephonic. Furthermore, the interviews are open-ended that involve dialogues.  The dialogues are the result of interaction between the researcher and the interviewee or respondent.

Conducting interviews for primary research is done for ages. It is one of the traditional methods to do research.  It is said that the face to face interviews are better than telephonic interviews, as it gives good responses.  Moreover, face to face interviews come in a personal approach that adds more value to the primary research.  Such interviews’ success depends solely on the researcher’s ability to speak fluently and ask questions about the problem statement’s research topic.

Questions asked in the interviews are mostly open-ended with great in-depth insights to gain the right amount of perceptions and respondents. All face to face interviews last about 30 minutes or longer, depending on the researcher.

In short, interviews are defined as the quintessentially qualitative data that are conducted for gathering information.  This leads to complex understandings and viewpoints of all respondents of the group or more groups. The answers obtained by this method are in-depth because the respondent takes time to construct his or her answers with care.  Further, the respondents can also add justification if needed for the answers.

The other good thing about conducting interviews is that they allow every researcher to develop specific questions according to the research topic. The questions are tailored for the respondents that are ready for interviews.

The researchers can also change their questions or develop new questions as per the previous respondent’s answers. In such a way, research interviews become the sort of conversation between the interviewer and the respondents.  All information collected from the interview methods is adjustable and changeable according to the different respondents’ various responses.

The information you collect adjusts and changes according to what you discover at that moment. However, the interview methods can limit the people to whom the researcher is interviewing.

1. Planning research interviews

The execution of research interviews is of great importance. Every researcher should execute research interviews very carefully. They can use all their knowledge about it and conduct the best interviews. The planning is needed for the conduction of interviews. The researchers should do proper planning for the execution of research interviews.

All research interviews can be conducted via email or face-to-face. The telephonic interview can also happen.  In emails, the researchers send questions to the respondent by highlighting the time for answering all questions. All respondents answer the questions in their own time. This saves the time of researchers to organize a face-to-face meeting with the respondent.

The interviews lead to longer, more in-depth answers from the respondent as they get enough time to tailor their answers.  They can think of appropriate answers in the given time. As soon as the respondent responds with an answer, the data is collected and noted by the researchers for further research.

It is seen that email questions save the time of researchers. But on the other hand, in email questions, the researcher loses its ability to alter the questions. The question set there doesn’t allow the researcher to rephrase the questions as per the requirement. This can lead to some mishaps in the answers.

In some instances, it is seen that the respondent may not understand a question. But there is no provision; the question can get altered. In such cases, the emailing set of questions may fail.

To execute interviews, multiple respondents are involved. As a researcher, you are always expected to develop common and new questions to ask each respondent involved in the interview. All questions are framed for answering all questions by the respondents. All questions must be phrased in such a way that they are clear to all respondents.

2. Online surveys method

Online surveys method

In traditional times, the surveys were conducted on paper with the help of pens. But with the advent of technology, surveys have changed their forms drastically. It has come a long way since then.  In present times, the researchers conduct online surveys that are sent to the respondents for gathering information.

Online surveys are way too good for offline mode. It saves a lot of time, and it is convenient to use also.  The survey forms can be sent to the respondents through emails.  And the surveys are filled by the respondents through online medium only.

The accessibility of online surveys is seen in every gadget, including smartphones, tablets, Ipads, personal computers, laptops, etc.

The online survey comes with a stipulated time given to the respondents for filling the survey questions.  All answers are recorded at this time, and the researcher does the data compilation as part of primary research.

The questions asked in online surveys should be open-ended and should be worth answering.  As a researcher, you should not make lengthy online survey questions as the respondents can lose interest in it.

2. Making focus groups

This is the most popular method of conducting primary research work.

According to this method, the data is collected from a group of 6-10 people. The groups here are restricted to this number only.  The groups are called focus groups as it comprises all experts who have expertise in the respective research topic.

The data are collected from the groups and used in the research process. All focus groups have a moderator who stimulates the discussions over the research topic.

Mainly all types of business organizations implement focus groups as the primary research tool. They conduct the focus group discussions to learn about the group of consumers for the organizations.

3. Observatory methods

This method does not include any direct interaction between the researcher and the respondent.

Here the consumer or respondent is observed by researchers silently.  The researchers make a note of their behaviors and reactions. Then they record the reactions in the form of observations.

For conducting this method, trained cameras and observers are used that record the reactions.  All observations are recorded in predetermined situations to start primary research.

Observatory methods urge the researcher to globally and watch the respondents’ activities to note it down. The researchers have to use all five senses to collect data from the respondents. Observatory methods are used in the first writing projects also. Primary research is the preliminary research that is done by the researchers as well as the analysts.

Following are the observatory methods that might be used for conducting primary research:

  • The researcher might explore the whole business groups and employees by such observatory methods. The researchers can observe their employees conclude a research topic.
  • The researcher might observe artwork or natural objects to analyze the artwork. It can be done by observing the artwork from proximity to the researchers.
  • The researchers might view and record observations from several respondents. Facebook can be used for the process. This way, they can examine how social media posts can affect them. In short, social media posts also affect the viewer. So, primary research helps in this process.
  • The researchers might observe different memorial areas in public parks at various times. They observe many attributes of people, including the timings, etc.

In simple words, Observations are great inquiry methods in which the researcher can or not ask questions. They observe and note the effects.  The researchers conduct observatory methods to collect information on how something works or appears in public. This is done without interfering by participating or asking questions. The researchers may not get satisfactory answers in such methods, but it is all good for primary research.

Advantages of primary research

Advantages of primary research

Following are the advantages of primary research:

  1. All data collected first hand is in a raw and accurate form. In simple words, there is no dilution of the collected data. Moreover, the primary research method can be customized to suit the personal requirements of the researchers. All needs of organizations or businesses are also considered with the primary research.
  2. Primary research mainly focuses on the problem at the hands of the researchers. It means that the entire attention of the research is directed to find a probable solution. It is all focused on a regarded subject matter. Primary research allows all researchers to go in-depth on a current matter and study all foreseeable approaches. It is all solved by primary research.
  3. Researchers can control data collected by primary research. Primary research allows the researchers to control how data is collected and used for the research process. It’s up to the discretion of businesses or researchers intended to collect data and how to use data to get meaningful insights.

Final Thoughts about Primary Research!

Primary research focuses on the problem at hand. The research process makes the problem approachable with optimal solutions.

The whole primary research process is focused on the main problem. So, conducting primary research included all in-depth analyses of the given research topic. The above methods are used to conduct primary research that provides a good result in the process.

The method is a time-tested method that makes it more reliable to work with.

Researchers conduct primary research to make the process more efficient and fruit-bearing.

By conducting primary research, organizations collect data and analyze it further to make meaningful data.  It is all efficient in extracting the data for better results.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.