Definition of Observation Method and Examples

Definition of Observation Method and Examples – Every researcher certainly devotes his attention to something and observes the facts found in it. This is of course driven by a high sense of curiosity regarding the understanding of observed facts in more depth. In reality, a researcher must raise various questions. Observation of the facts, identification of the problem, and efforts to answer the formulation of the problem are based on theory. This is the essence of a research.

Research can be referred to as a systematic effort to organize and investigate problems and answer questions that appear and are related to facts and phenomena. Therefore, research is very important because it is in the form of systematic, controlled, empirical and critical research about natural phenomena guided by theories and hypotheses about the relationship that is considered to exist between the phenomena.

Based on the technique, data processing in a research is divided into two, namely quantitative research and qualitative research. One of the data processing techniques that is often used in research is the observation technique. This observation has an important role in the meaning of research as one of the scientific research methods that can be done in various ways. However, the need for reproducibility requires that observations by different observers can be compared.

In a research, the observation method will be described as a method used in observing and describing the subject’s behavior. As the name suggests, this observation is a way of gathering relevant information and data by observing, so in this case observation is called a participatory study because the researcher must establish a relationship with the respondents and for this must immerse himself in the same arrangement with them.

Only then can researchers use the observation method to record the required data. The observation method is used if the researcher wants to avoid mistakes that can be the result of bias during the evaluation and interpretation process. The use of this observation technique is usually used as a support in a research to observe the phenomenon that occurs in the research location.

There are various techniques used in observation by a researcher according to the needs of the data they want to obtain. About what are the techniques that are often used for observation purposes in a research?

In this article, we will discuss observation techniques as one example of data processing techniques. With the hope that it can be an additional insight and recommendation for you prospective data practitioners, researchers, and data enthusiasts . Don’t miss the following article, make sure to read carefully, stay tuned and keep scrolling on this article guys!


Meaning of Observation

Observational methods often complement data obtained from in-depth interviews and surveys. Observation is usually understood as an effort to obtain data in a “natural” way. The simplest definition of the observation method is to see and listen to events or actions performed by the people being observed, then record the results of their observations with notes or other aids.

Observation also means observing, witnessing, paying attention as a method of collecting research data. This article will discuss the observation method in social research. We have defined simply what observation is in the first paragraph. Next, we will comment in more depth about how to conduct observations and the problems that researchers usually face.

Not infrequently, the observation method is misunderstood. Observation is observing by looking and listening. However, observation as a research method has certain characteristics and techniques. Perhaps some readers have heard the term participant observation. We will comment on the meaning of observation according to experts and the types of observation before discussing problems in the observation method.

Quoted from the book Evaluation of Learning: Basic Concepts, Principles, Techniques, and Procedures (2020) by Muhammad Ilyas Ismail, observation is one of the data collection techniques that is more specific than other techniques. Some of the meanings of observation according to experts are as follows:

1. Gibson RL and Mitchell MH

Observation is a technique used as a degree selection to determine a decision and conclusion about the person being observed.

2. Larry Christensen

Observation is a way to get important information about people, because what is said does not necessarily correspond to what is done.

3. Creswell

Observation is the process of obtaining data from the first hand, by observing people and the location of the research.

4. Patton

Observation is a method that is accurate and specific to collect data and find information about all activities that are the object of research.

5. Sutrisno Hadi

Observation is a very complex process, consisting of various processes, both biological and psychological, which prioritize memory and observation processes.

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6. Eko Putro Widyoko

Observation is the systematic observation and recording of the elements that appear in a symptom on the object of research.

7. Sugiyono

Quoted from the book Quantitative Approach Educational Research Methods (2014), observation is a complex process, a process made up of various biological and psychological processes.

8. Riyanto

In his book Education Research Methodology (2010), it is explained that observation is a data collection method that uses direct or indirect observation.


Techniques in Observation

1. Controlled Observation

Controlled observation is done in a closed room. Researchers who have the authority to determine the place and time where and when observations will be made. He also decides who his participants are and under what conditions he will use the standard process.

Participants were randomly selected for the research variable group. The researcher observes and records detailed and descriptive behavioral data and divides it into different categories. Sometimes researchers code actions according to an agreed scale by using a behavior list.

Coding can include letters or numbers or spans to measure the intensity of behavior and describe its characteristics. The collected data is often transformed into statistics. In the controlled observation method, participants are informed by the researcher about the purpose of the research. This makes them aware that they are being observed. The researcher avoids direct contact during the observation method and generally uses a two-way mirror to observe and record details.

2. Participatory Observation

The participatory observation method is often considered a variant of the naturalistic observation method because it has similarities. The difference is that the researcher is no longer a remote observer because he has joined the participants and become part of his group.

A researcher does this to gain deeper and deeper insight into their lives. The researcher interacts with other members of the group freely, participates in their activities, learns their behavior and acquires a different way of life. Participant observation can be open or hidden.

  • Overt (open), when the researcher asks permission from a group to mingle. He does it by revealing his true purpose and original identity to the group he wants to associate with.
  • Covert , if the researcher does not show the true identity or meaning to the group he wants to follow. He kept the two a secret and assumed a false role and identity to enter and blend into the group. He usually acts as if he is a genuine member of the group

3. Naturalistic Observation

Social scientists and psychologists generally use naturalistic observation methods. The process involves observing and learning the spontaneous behavior of the participants in an open or natural environment. The researcher’s role is to find and record anything that can be seen and observed in its original habitat.

This technique involves observing and learning the spontaneous behavior of participants in their natural environment. Researchers simply record what they see in whatever way they can. In unstructured observation, the researcher records all relevant behaviors without a system. There may be too much to record and the recorded behavior is not necessarily the most important, so this approach is usually used as a pilot study to see what type of behavior will be recorded. Compared to controlled observation, this is like the difference between studying wild animals in a zoo and studying them in their natural habitat.

4. Structured Observation

Structured observation consists of a careful definition of categories in which information will be recorded, standardization of observation conditions, and is mostly used in studies designed to provide systematic descriptions or to test causal hypotheses.

The use of structured observation techniques assumes that the investigator knows what aspects of the situation under study are relevant to the purpose of his research and is therefore in a position to develop a specific plan for making and recording observations before he actually begins data collection.

Structured observations can be used in natural field settings or laboratory settings. Structured observation, so far used mainly in research that begins with a relatively specific formulation, usually allows much less freedom of choice with regard to the content of the observation than is allowed in unstructured observation.

Because the situation and the problem are already explicit, the observer is in a position to determine in advance the categories that will be analyzed in the situation. The categories are clearly defined to provide reliable data about the questions to be asked.

Example of Observation Method

Basically, there are two types of observation methods in research; participatory and non-participatory. The main motivation behind this distinction is the term called reactivity level. Reactivity greatly determines the quality of research data. We can understand reactivity as how reactive the behavior of the people being studied or being observed. The more reactive, the lower the quality of the data produced from observation. Reactivity can also be seen as a source of error.

For example, we will observe the green community in Yogyakarta. In a natural context (without research), the facial expressions of some community members look gloomy when carrying out planting activities in the garden. On another day, when a researcher from abroad came to observe, the facial expressions of the members looked very enthusiastic. Facial expression that looks enthusiastic is a form of reactivity because it is done with full awareness that he is under observation. In other words, not “natural”.

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The quality of observation data that is not “natural” can be said to be weak or even an error. The degree to which the data obtained will be reactive should be thought about first by the researcher before going into the field. After assessing the potential for reactivity, the researcher decides whether to choose a participatory or non-participatory observation method.

1. Participatory Observation Method

Participatory observation method can be described as an observation method where the researcher positions himself as a participant like other people who are being observed. In positioning oneself as a participant, the researcher still has to keep a distance so that the element of objectivity remains awake.

2. Non-Participatory Observation Method

The non-participatory observation method is understood as an observation method where the researcher positions himself as an outsider from the group he is researching. This method often gives a considerable distance between the researcher and the object being studied because the observation is done from the outside. At an extreme level, the non-participatory method can be seen as a method often practiced by spies in observing a case.

Continuing the issue of reactivity that was mentioned at the beginning, according to sociologist Martyn Hammersley in his writing in The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology (2007) entitled “Observation”, the problem faced by the observation method is not only the issue of reactivity. Some other issues faced by researchers include; the problem of obtaining access, sampling, variation of the data produced, and ethical problems.


How to Get Quality Observational Data

Here are some other issues that must be considered so that the observational data obtained is of high quality, so that the research results are also high quality.

  • The problem of gaining access can consist of various forms, depending on the role the researcher will play and the results of the research object. When research is conducted openly, meaning the researcher introduces himself and his research, access to observe will depend on the negotiation process. In the negotiation process, an agreement related to the research must be reached in advance so that no party is harmed later. Consent to observe may also depend on the researcher’s personal and social characteristics and qualities.
  • Sampling can also involve observation. For example, researchers observe the situation of the village or community being studied, for example. Preliminary observations for this sampling can help determine who will be the informant, when they can be found or contacted, and so on. There are several strategies that can be applied here, for example, whether the researcher will focus his attention on the place under study or the behavior of the people. How long to observe should also be determined from the beginning.
  • The variation of the data produced depends on whether the observation is done in a structured or unstructured way. Structured observation follows the detailed planning design made before the observation is carried out. In other words, the researcher observes according to the observation guide. Unstructured observation means that observation is done flexibly. The data produced from unstructured observation is usually more diverse because it involves several research instruments that are used as needed, for example, diaries, field notes, voice recorders, photo recorders, video recorders, and so on.
  • Ethical problems should be explained first in the beginning so that the researcher does not stumble upon ethical problems that can lower his reputation as a researcher. Observation can be done in closed or open. Ethical procedures generally require open observation where the identity of the researcher and the research is known to the person being observed. On the other hand, closed observation is often rejected because it is usually shrouded in lies, for example hiding the original identity of the researcher and using a false identity. Research subjects also have the potential to have their privacy disturbed. However, the choice of whether to apply open or closed observation depends on the level. Observations that are too open are also prone to error.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Observation Method

Here is an explanation of the advantages and disadvantages of the observation method:

1. Gain Observation

The advantages of direct observation or observation in the data collection process, namely:

  • Observation is very easy to implement.
  • The direct observation method is able to answer or satisfy a person’s curiosity, so that in the end the process that has gone through gives its own meaning or value. With the method of direct observation can be evidence and the absence of manipulation.
  • Observation can make a person more motivated and also have a great sense of curiosity. This method can be used as a research tool.

2. Lack of Observation

Some shortcomings of the observation method, namely:

  • Observers need time to wait for certain actions.
  • There are some data that cannot be done with observation, for example someone’s personal secret.
  • The tendency of a person being observed to behave or behave in accordance with what the observer expects.