Observational Method


Aliya Qureshi, Academic Content Writer at Edumarz.


  1. Observation is not the same as seeing.

  2. Observation is to notice carefully. It is to view with attention to detail.

  3. With just observation, we can effectively describe behavior.

Scientific observation is different from the observation that we normally do, in the following ways:

  1. SELECTION: Psychologists cannot study every behavior at a time. For this they select a particular behavior that they need to observe.

  2. RECORDING: Researchers record the observed behavior by either taking notes or using other methods, Recording is necessary for describing the observed behavior in greater detail.

  3. ANALYSIS of Data: After observation and Recording come the careful analysation of data. Analysation is important to make some meaning out of the data recorded.    

NOTE: For making a good observation, a researcher must know the following things: 

  1. What he/she wants to observe?

  2. Who to observe?

  3. When and Where to make the observation?

  4. How the observation will be recorded?

  5. How the recorded behavior will be analysed?

Types of Observation

  1. Naturalistic Observation:

  • Observations done in a naturalistic setting are called Naturalistic.

  • No effort is made to manipulate/change the situation. 

  • The behaviors being observed are totally natural.

  • Conducted in hospitals, homes, schools,etc.

  1. Controlled Observation:

  • Studies conducted in a controlled setting, eg. laboratories are called controlled observations.

  1. Non-Participant Observation:

  • Observing participants without actively being involved in the behavior being observed  is called Non-Participant Observation.

  • In this type of Observation, researcher may sit in the corner without being a part of the activity being observed and without disturbing the same activity. Observation is done from a distance.

  • One drawback of  this type of observation is that, the participants being observed might behave differently because of knowing that someone is watchin/observing them. Their behaviors might get affected and so does the research.

  1. Participant Observation:

  • Researcher joins the group being studied, and takes part in their activities.

  • For doing so, the observer develops a rapport with the group so they accept him/her as part of the group without suspecting that they are being observed. 

  •  In this type of observation the person being observed sometimes does not even know that they are being observed.

  • This type of Observation is not susceptible to changes in behavior due to presence of a researcher. 

Limitations of Observation Method.

  1. It is Labour intensive. 

  2. It is Time Consuming.

It is Susceptible to the Observer’s Bias.( an observer’s ability to be influenced/manipulated by his/her experiences, expectations, beliefs, prejudices while making an observation or recording it.)

Leave a Reply