Observation is one of the qualitative methods of data collection, According to it researcher observes the behavior of the participants in a natural situation. Depending on the type and purpose of research, the level of researcher participation is different; This means that sometimes the researcher enters the environment and sometimes observes the environment from a distance and in the laboratory space. In general, the purpose of observation is to gather more reliable insights; Because the extracted data is based on the real actions of the participants and, unlike other methods, it is not just based on the statements of people.
Observation is useful in the following cases:
– When there is no trust in the statements of the participants.
– When the topic is new and strong data is needed to explain consumer behavior.
– When there is a need to get more information about the topic in order to design a more accurate survey.
The following are mentioned as advantages of the observation method:
- Simplicity and no need for technical knowledge to collect data
- Suitability for formulating the hypothesis framework
- No need to confirm the accuracy of information due to direct receipt of data from participants
- The possibility of collecting data from those who are unable or unwilling to provide information about their feelings, preferences, and opinions
- Inability to observe certain behaviors (such as addiction or sexual activities)
- Uncertainty of the time for the occurrence of the event to be observed
- Some cases cannot be identified through observation, such as interest and emotion
- The possibility of the observer’s perception of the event being incomplete
- The possibility of biased ideas due to personal biases of the observer
- Time-consuming process
- Being expensive (in some cases, such as the need to travel for observation, etc.)
- The insufficiency of this method alone
- Problem with credit check
- Controlled observation: structured observations in which the researcher or observer controls many variables, including the participants, the place of observation, and the time of observation. In this method, the researcher defines and classifies different behavioral codes and therefore, the experiment and analysis are done more quickly. The advantages of controlled observations include the possibility of repeating the study and testing its reliability, the ease of analysis due to the coding of behaviors, and the fact that it is not time-consuming. Despite the mentioned advantages, if the participants know that they are being monitored, the credibility of the research is jeopardized.
- Naturalistic observation: usually this method is done by market researchers. In natural observations, the participant’s behavior in a natural environment is observed by the researcher or observer, and usually, there are no predetermined behavioral codes; This is because the researcher takes notes and later codes the data. The validity of this method is guaranteed due to the presence of the participant in the natural environment and not knowing that he is being observed, and in the process of natural observation, new ideas and questions, and other factors are identified that the researcher may not have considered. Among the problems of natural observation, we can mention the lack of reliability and the possibility of repeating the experiment, due to the variables not being controllable. The lack of ability to control variables and the possibility of losing vital data in the implementation of a large-scale test are other problems of this method.
- Participant observation: Participatory observation, like natural observation, is done in a normal environment, with the difference that the researcher or observer works alongside the participants. One of the advantages of this method is the possibility of controlling some variables due to the presence of the researcher in the testing process and fewer errors in writing the report. Among the limitations of participatory observation, we can point out the impossibility of taking notes in the presence of participants and the possibility of data errors due to relying on the power of memory to remember the observed points.
Unstructured observation and structured observation, participatory observation, and non-participatory observation are other types of observation classifications.