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RESEARCH TECHNIQES - OBSERVATION METHOD
By
Shiva Krishna S.D.
Research Scholar,
Department of Library and Information Science,
University of Mysore, Mysore.
Research Guide:
DR. Adithya Kumari H.
Associate Professor,
Department of Library and Information Science,
University of Mysore
Introduction:
oOBSERVATION involves looking and listening very
carefully.
oWe all watch other people sometimes, but we don’t
usually watch them in order to discover particular
information about their behaviour.
This is what observation in social science involves
(Langley, P. 1988)
FIELD RESEARCH
Field research can be considered either as a
broad approach to qualitative research or a
method of gathering qualitative data
 The essential idea is that the researcher goes “
into the field” to observe the phenomenon in
its natural state or in situ. As such, it is probably
most related to the method of participant
observation.
 The field researcher typically takes extensive
field notes which are subsequently coded and
analysed in a variety of ways.
(Trochim, B. 1999)
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WHY USE OBSERVATION
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Observation allows the researcher to study people in
their ‘natural setting’ without their behaviour being
influenced by the presence of a researcher
Oberservational data usually consists of detailed
information about particular groups or situations
This kind of data can ‘fill out’ and provide a deeper,
richer, understanding than survey work which tends to
produce less detailed information about a larger
number of people.
TYPES OF OBSERVATION
Types of observation could be broadly classified as:
1. Structured Observation.
2. Unstructured Observation.
3. Participant Observation.
4. Non-participant Observation.
5. Controlled Observation.
6. Uncontrolled Observation.
1. STRUCTURED OBSERVATION
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Observation takes place strictly in accordance with a
plan or a design prepared in advance,
Observation decides what to observe, what to focus on,
what type of information or activity should be given
importance, who are all to be observed, what
conditions to be fulfilled to carry out observation, etc.
in advance.
Advantages:
Continue
Filtering what is relevant and focusing on it,
 Avoiding waste of time,
 Studying only the target group,
 Minimizing the bias of the observer, and
 Elimination of any scope for vagueness/lack of clarity.
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Disadvantages:
Continue
Unless a person is well trained he cannot be effective in
undertaking structured observation,
 It is possible that vital aspects are missed, as they were
not conceived at the time of designing the observation,
and
 By limiting the independence of the observer, crucial
things might be left out from being observed.
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2. Unstructured Observation
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•
There is no advance designing of what, how, when, who,
etc.
The observer is given the freedom to decide on the
spot, to observe everything that is relevant.
For example: while observing the user accessing the
library resources, the observer may be able to observe
several interesting things like how they discuss with
staff, how they getting the required document, i.e.
directly go the shelf or through catalogue/OPAC or help
from colleagues, etc.
Some of these may not be observed if structured
observation is adopted
Advantage:

Continue
The main strength of the unstructured observation is
that at the time of observation everything is taken note
of and the researcher then segregates the related and
relevant details.
Disadvantage:

One important quality required of the observer is that
he should be well trained and experienced.
3. Participant Observation
The observer is very much present in the midst of what
is observed.
For Example: suppose a researcher is studying the lifestyle
of a hill tribe, then he might understand the lifestyle of
the tribe better, only when he stays with them. But he
may not interfere with anything that happening.
• He is a participant in the sense; he is physically present on
the spot to observe and not influence the activities
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Merits:
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Continue
The observer will not miss anything which is relevant.
There is very scope for him to clarify things which he
cannot understand.
He can interact with people to get more information.
Demerits:
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An inexperienced observer may not know what is
relevant and what is not relevant.
The conduct or behaviour or reaction of the target
audience may be influenced by his presence.
He tends to focus more on things of interest to him,
than what is relevant.
4. Non-participant Observation
The observer remains detached from whatever is
happening around and does not involve himself in any
activities taking place.
 He is present only to observe and not to take part in
the activities.
For example: The plain clothe men [policemen not in
uniform] are deputed on observation duty whenever a
procession takes place or whenever any important
political personality participates in the public meeting.
Important strength of this method: Observer would
collect first hand information without being noticed or
influenced by anyone.
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5. Controlled Observation
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This is a slightly modified version of unstructured
observation.
The observer performs his work in an environment
or situation, which is very much planned or
designed or set.
6. Uncontrolled Observation
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The observer is at freedom to observe whatever is
taking place around him in the natural set up.
No attempt is made to intervene the naturalness of the
environment or situation.
Merits of Observation:
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If observation is done correctly, the scope for bias is
very much minimized.
As there is no need to get any reply or details from the
respondents, observation does not require any cooperation of the respondents.
Through observation, the current scenario in which
anything is happening is noticed and explained.
There is no interpretation of how things would have
happened in the past or will happen in future, etc.
This is fairly reliable method, provided the observer is
well experienced, trained and sincere.
Limitations of Observation:
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This is a relatively costly method of data collection
The scope for the bias of the observer interfering in
what is observed and understood is high.
It could be noticed that what is observed may bring out
only part of the facts, while data collected through
questionnaire or interview ensures better coverage.
Sometimes, it may not be possible to observe what is
targeted. This may be due to the difficulty in reaching
such people or spot.
Observer can effectively establish link among whatever
he has observed to give a meaningful satisfactory
interpretation i.e. based on his report nobody else can
give satisfactory interpretation.
How to Make an Observation Successful ?
First the researcher should have a clear grasp of what
he should observe and the purpose or objectives of
such observation.
 The person should be trained in adopting observation
method of data collection.
 The person should avoid any of his personal likes and
dislikes, intervene in the process of observation.
 Unless the observer is alert and intelligent, he might
ignore important things.
 The observer should be able to convince his target
audience the need and importance of what is observed.
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Conclusion
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Observation alone may not be useful in collecting the
data.
If it is combined with other methods data collection like
questionnaire/schedule method or interview method, it
would help to make data collection comprehensive.
References:
Jagadish
R.
Raiyani
(2012).
Research
Methodology: Theory and Techniques, New
Delhi: New Century Publications.
 http://www.Google.com.


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