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Advantages and Limitations ‘Observation’ Method for Data Collection

Advantages and Disadvantages of Conducting Observational Research

❶Observation only tells one part of the story. Advantages of Observational Research The biggest advantage of observational research has already been noted:

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What is observation?


Systematic and unbiased observation can yield a true picture of individual's natural set of behaviors. Certain phenomena can be accessed and properly understood only through observation.

Crowd behavior, social behaviors of the animals, and mother-child interaction at home are some exemplary situations, which can be meaningfully assessed, and understood only through observation.

The major problem with observational methods is that the investigator has little control over the situation he is interested to observe. In the natural setting, too many extraneous factors influence the phenomenon. As a result, it is difficult to assess what causes or determines the behaviors of researcher's interest. It is extremely difficult, and sometimes impossible to establish cause-and-effect relationships in our understanding of the behaviors. The observational report in most cases turns out to be descriptions of events rather than explanations for the event that can be used for prediction and control.

In many cases the observer has to wait until the appropriate event takes place. To study crowd behavior, the investigator would have to wait until a crowd is formed in a natural setting. Therefore, some types of observations are time-consuming, and labor-intensive. Observer-bias is one of the important problems in observational research. However, it is more common in modern research to reduce the observation time substantially. Observation time may be further reduced in experimental conditions laboratory or simulation in other words, controlled settings.

An important potential disadvantage, in conducting observational research, is the ethical dilemmas inherent in observing real life situations for research purposes. Public Administration , 86 3 , pp. The Long Slow Fuse '. The Police Journal, 77 2 , The Lessons of Paulsgrove '. The Police Journal, 77 3 , The observational method is a non-experimental design.

The absence of an independent variable does not allow any cause-effect conclusions to be drawn from observational research.

Sound evidence is however important to the observational method. Indeed, the observational method's key feature is a standardised , planned, and systematic approach to objectively observe and record behaviour.

This is of course to generate all-important data upon which to base any conclusions. Observations, which can be overt or covert , are of five main types. We have participant observation , non-participant observation , structured observation , unstructured observation and naturalistic observation.

Each involves the planned gathering, analysis, and interpretation of mostly empirical data on observed behaviour. Each observation has its own features, advantages and disadvantages. Participant observation, for example, sees the researcher set up, and take part in the observation of behaviour under investigation. Non-participant observation sees no involvement on the part of the researcher, with recordings of observed behaviours being taken from afar.


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Advantages and Disadvantages of Conducting Observational Research. The following table provides an evaluation of observation as a research method. A key advantage of conducting observations is that you can observe what people actually do or say, rather than what they say they do.

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As with most research methods, observational research works best in tandem with other methods. A focus group, for instance, could outline thoughts and opinions, while observation showcases actual behavior in real-life situations.

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Disadvantages of Observational Method: The major problem with observational methods is that the investigator has little control over the situation he is interested to observe. In the natural setting, too many extraneous factors influence the phenomenon. Advantages of Observational Research. The biggest advantage of observational research has already been noted: it enables businesses to observe potential customers in a natural setting, which can reveal penetrating insights unavailable through other methods such as focus groups and surveys.

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Advantages of Observation: (1) Simplest Method: Observation is probably the most common and the simplest method of data collection. It does not require much technical knowledge. Although scientific controlled observation requires some technical skill of the researcher, still it is easier than other methods. There are different types of observational research so I’ve assumed you mean participant observation. Advantages Being physically there means you don’t have to rely on people reporting events or behaviour, you can see it directly.