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observation methods and survey method

 Survey Method

Definition:  questioning a large group of people about their attitudes, beliefs, etc.
 Surveys provide a means of measuring a population’s characteristics, self-reported and observed behaviour, awareness of programs, attitudes or opinions, and needs. Repeating surveys at regular intervals can assist in the measurement of changes over time. These types of information are invaluable in planning and evaluating Government policies and programs.

Surveys are the most commonly used tool in sociological research, whether in the form of a questionnaire, interview, or telephone poll. Surveys make it possible to ask specific questions about a large number of topics and then perform sophisticated analyses to find patterns and relationships among variables. 

 Types of survey method
Questionnaires are typically distributed to large groups of people and are commonly distributed through the mail. There are several advantages of using a questionnaire over other forms of surveys. They are cheap, they do not require as much effort in gathering responses as does a verbal or telephone survey, and they often have standardized answers that make it easy to compile answers. That is, questionnaires are typically made up of closed-ended questions with specific response categories rather than open-ended questions that allow respondents to write in their answers. There are also disadvantages to using a questionnaire. For instance, limiting a respondent’s answer choices may frustrate the respondent. Also, questionnaires require that the respondents are able to read the questions and respond to them, which could limit the demographic groups to which the questionnaire is distributed.
Similarly to questionnaires, interviews provide a structured way to ask people questions. They may be conducted face-to-face or by telephone. Interview questions may be open-ended or closed-ended, though typically open-ended questions are more common as they allow the respondent to elaborate their answers.
Telephone Polls
A telephone poll is a questionnaire that is done over the telephone. The response categories are typically pre-defined (closed-ended) with little opportunity for respondents to elaborate their responses. Telephone polls can be very costly and time-consuming and since the introduction of the Do Not Call Registry, telephone polls have become harder to conduct. Many times respondents are not open to taking these phone calls and hang up before responding to any questions. Telephone polls are used often during political campaigns or to get consumer opinions about a product or service. 

Observation method of primary data collection

It is watching other persons’ behaviour as it actually happens without controlling it.
Observation is a primary method of collecting data by human, mechanical, electrical or electronics means with direct or indirect contact. As per Langley P, “Observations involve looking and listening very carefully. We all watch other people sometimes but we do not usually watch them in order to discover particular information about their behavior. This is what observation in social science involves.”
Observation is the main source of information in the field research. The researcher goes into the field and observes the conditions in their natural state
 Characteristics of observation:

Lofland has said that this method is more appropriate for studying lifestyles or sub-cultures, practices, episodes, encounters, relationships, groups, organizations, settlements, and roles.

The following are the characteristics of observation among others:

1. Behaviour is observed in natural surroundings.
2. It enables understanding significant events affecting social relations of the participants.
3. It determines reality from the viewpoint of the observed person/Researcher.
4. It avoids manipulations in the independent variables.
5. Recording of data is not selective.


Purpose of observation:

The major purposes of observation as described by Black and Champion are as under:

1. To capture human conduct as it actually happens. In other methods, we get a static comprehension of people’s activity. In actual situation, they sometimes modify their views, sometimes contradict themselves, and sometimes are so swayed away by the situation that they react differently altogether. Ex: Tone of voice, facial expressions and content of slogans by the demonstrators.

2. To provide more graphic description of social life than can be acquired in other ways. Example: The graphic details of behaviour of women when they are physically assaulted by their husbands can only be got by observation method.
3. To explore important events and situations. By being present on the scene, issues that might otherwise be overlooked are examined more carefully. Example: Visiting office soon after the office hours and finding that the married men and single women are working overtime whereas single men and married women had gone home.
4. It can be used as a tool of collecting information in situations where methods other than observation cannot prove to be useful. Example: Workers’ behaviour during a strike.

 types of observation method

1. Casual and Scientific observation – An observation can be sometimes casual in nature or sometimes it may act scientifically. An observation with a casual approach involves observing the right thing at the right place and also at the right time by a matter of chance or by luck whereas a scientific observation involves the use of the tools of the measurement, but a very important point to be kept in mind here is that all the observations are not scientific in nature.
2. Natural Observation – Natural observation involves observing the behaviour in a normal setting and in this type of observation, no efforts are made to bring any type of change in the behavior of the observed. Improvement in the collection of the information and improvement in the environment of making an observation can be done with the help of natural observations.

3. Subjective and Objective observation – All the observations consist of the two main components, the subject and the object. The subject refers to the observer whereas the object refers to the activity or any type of operation that is being observed. Subjective observation involves the observation of the one’s own immediate experience whereas the observations involving observer as an entity apart from the thing being observed, are referred to as the objective observation. Objective observation is also called as the retrospection.

4. Direct and Indirect observation – With the help of the direct method of observation, one comes to know how the observer is physically present in which type of situation is he present and then this type of observation monitors what takes place. Indirect method of observation involves studies of mechanical recording or the recording by some of the other means like photographic or electronic. Direct observation is relatively more straight forward as compared to the indirect observation.

5. Participant and Non Participant observation – Participation by the observers with the various types of operations of the group under study refers to the participant type of observation. In participant observation, the degree of the participation is largely affected by the nature of the study and it also depends on the type of the situation and also on its demands.But in the non participant type of observation, no participation of the observer in the activities of the group takes place and also there occurs no relationship between the researcher and the group.

6. Structured and Unstructured observation – Structured observation works according to a plan and involves specific information of the units that are to be observed and also about the information that is to be recorded. The operations that are to be observed and the various features that are to be noted or recorded are decided well in advance. Such observations involve the use of especial instruments for the purpose of data collection that are also structured in nature. But in the case of the unstructured observation, its basics are diametrically against the structured observation. In such observation, observer has the freedom to note down what he or she feels is correct and relevant to the point of study and also this approach of observation is very suitable in the case of exploratory research.

7. Controlled and Non Controlled observation: Controlled observations are the observations made under the influence of some of the external forces and such observations rarely lead to improvement in the precision of the research results. But these observations can be very effective in the working if these are made to work in the coordination with mechanical synchronizing devices, film recording etc. Non controlled observations are made in the natural environment and reverse to the controlled observation these observations involve no influence or guidance of any type of external force.

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