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) WHY USE OBSERVATION 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 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. 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. 2. Unstructured Observation • 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 Merits: 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: 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. 5. Controlled Observation 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 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: 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: 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. Conclusion 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.