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Observation method is the mostly commonly used method. Observation method becomes a scientific tool and
method of data collection for the researcher, when it serves a formulate research purpose and systematically
planned. Under the observation method the information is sort by way of investigators own direct observation
without asking from respondent. For instance, in a study relating to consumer behavior, the investigator instead of
asking the brand of wrist watch used by the respondent, may himself look at the watch. While using this method the
researcher should keep in mind things like what should be observed? How the observation should be recorded?
How the accuracy of observation can be ensured?
Advantage of Observation

The advantage of this method is that subjective bias is eliminated if the observation is done accurately

The information under this method relates to what is currently happening

This method is independent of respondent

Disadvantages of Observation
It is expensive method
Information provided by this method is very limited
Sometime unforeseen factors may interface with the observation task
Types of Observation
Observational methods may be:

structured Vs unstructured

disguised Vs undisguised

natural Vs contrived

non-participant Vs participant
Structured Vs unstructured
In structured observation, the researcher specifies in detail what is to be observed and how the measurements are to
be recorded. It is appropriate when the problem is clearly defined and the information needed is specified. E.g.Inventory auditing, where an auditor analyses the inventory in the stores.
Structured observation is appropriate for descriptive research where research problem is clearly defined. The data
collected through structured observation are reliable because the potential for observers bias is minimum.
In unstructured observation, the researcher monitors all aspects of the phenomenon that seem relevant. It is
appropriate when the problem has yet to be formulated precisely and flexibility is needed in observation to identify
key components of the problem and to develop hypotheses. The potential for bias is high. Observation findings
should be treated as hypotheses to be tested rather than as conclusive findings.
Disguised Vs undisguised
In disguised observation, respondents are unaware they are being observed and thus behave naturally. Disguise is
achieved, for example, by hiding, or using hidden equipment or people disguised as shoppers.
In undisguised observation, respondents are aware they are being observed..
Natural Vs contrived
In natural observation involves observing behaviour as it takes place in the environment, for example, eating
hamburgers in a fast food outlet.
In contrived observation, the respondents behaviour is observed in an artificial environment, for example, a food
tasting session.

Participant Vs Non participant

Participant Observation
In participant observation, the researcher becomes, or is, part of the group that is being investigated. Participant
observation has its roots in ethnographic studies (study of man and races) where researchers would live in tribal
villages, attempting to understand the customs and practices of that culture. It has a very extensive literature,
particularly in sociology (development, nature and laws of human society) and anthropology (physiological and
psychological study of man).
In a participant observation, the presence of observer as an active member is necessary. The observer freely mixes
with the social activities of the group, their normal working and functions not as an outsider who critically studies
the activities of the group rather the observer acts as a willing member trying to participate in what they do.
Merits of Participant Observation
1. Group is observed in its natural behaviour. It means that other members of group are not concious that they
are being observed and due to this they show their natural behaviour and their behaviour is not influenced
by concious feeling.
2. The observer can observe much close to the group. As the observer is an active member of the group he is
in a position to observe the activities at a close distance and thus he can have a better insight of the
3. Under participant observation the observer has a great appreciation for group activities. Generally an
outsider is not able to appreciate fully the feelings which a member can feel. For e.g. research on the life of
the prisoners, the participant can realise the feeling and reactions of prisoners.
4. The researcher can learn things that are not open to observation. By talking to members of group many
things can be learned.
5. The participant observer is generally welcomed by the group. The group member usually welcome an
outsider who takes keen interest in their social activities, who wnt to learn about their customs, rituals and
social life than an outsider who critically evaluates their social activities for academic interest.
Demerits of Participant Observation
1. The emotional participation of the observer kills the objectivity of the research. The observer begins to feel
as a member of group and develops soft feelings towards evils and does not record them.
2. By active participation a researcher gains a status for himself in the society. Due to this he may see the
things from personal viewpoint than from scientific viewpoint.
3. In a participant observation the researcher becomes familier with group activities and due to this many
group activities appear as a common thing and he may fail to observe them.
4. The observers active participation may get him entangled in many type of quarrels and group rivalries.
Due to this the purpose of the research is lost and the researcher finds himself entangled in a situation that
deviates him from his research study.
5. In some cases active participation is not possible. E.g. criminal gang or prison inmates.
Non participant Observation
Non-participant observation ia a research technique where the researcher watches the subjects of his or her study,
with their knowledge, but without taking an active part in the situation under scrutiny. This approach is sometimes
criticized on the grounds that the very fact of their being observed may lead people to behave differently, thus
invalidating the data obtained. The observer does not normally question or communicate with the people being
Pure non-participation observation is exteremly difficult because one can not imagine a situation where the person
is always present but does not participates. This makes both- the observer and the group uncomfortable. Therefore,
in a non-participant observation, the observer participates in some of the ordinary activities while remains only a
distant observer in other activities. Thus, in real practice non-participant is actually a quasi-participant observation.
Merits of Non-Participation Observation
1. The objectivity of the research is not killed because the observer does not feel attached with the group and
therefore, records every activity of group without prejudice.
2. As the researcher does not actively participate, he does not create a status in the group. Due to this his
observation viewpoint is scientific rather than personal.
3. The researcher maintains a stranger value because he is able to record minute things which a participant
observer might have considered a common thing.

4. The observer does not get himself entangled into the group rivalries and quarrels and due to this he may
conduct his research smoothly.
Demerits of Non-Participant Observation
1. Group is not considered in its natural behaviour. The group members may become concious that they are
being observed and due to this they may not show their natural behaviour. The group understands the
observer as a stranger.
2. In a non-participant observation the observer has less appreciation for the group activities. He is like an
outsider and he can not realise the feeling and emotions that a group member experiences.
3. The observer might not get better insight into the group activities.
4. The observer does not get the chance to learn many things that are not open to observation.
5. The researcher as well as the group members may feel uncomfortable due to strange behaviour of the
Observation Methods
The different observation methods are:
Personal Observation: In personal observation, a researcher observes actual behaviour as it occurs. The observer
may or may not normally attempt to control or manipulate the phenomenon being observed. The observer merely
records what takes place.
Mechanical Observation: Mechanical devices (video, closed circuit television) record what is being observed.
These devices may or may not require the respondents direct participation. They are used for continuously
recording on-going behaviour. Some of the mechanical devices used for this purpose are- Audimeter,
Psychogalvanometer, Pupilometer, Eye Tracking Monitor and Voice Pithch Analyser.
Audit: In audit the researcher collects the data by examinig the physical records or inventory analysis. The data is
collected by the researcher himself and data is collecetd on the basis of counts of physical records and objects. E.g.
Inventory audit, Wholesale audit, Accounts audit, etc.