Different Types of Observation

Mon, 07/22/2013 - 23:41 -- Umar Farooq

Below are the different types of observations

Participant observation

Participant observation was first introduced by Prof. Edward Winder Man. It means the activities of a group in which an observer himself participate and note the situation. He willingly mixes with the group and perform his activities as an observer not merely a participator who criticize the situation. In other words he takes place and share the activities with his group. For example when we study the rural and urban conditions of Asian people, we have to go there and watched what is going on. The best philosophy of participant observation is that we watch the phenomena not to ask. The actual behavior of the group can be observed only by participant observation not by any other method.


  1. The observer is personally involved in group activities and shares their feelings and prejudices.
  2. He participate himself and get insight into the behavior of the group.
  3. It motivates and stimulates mutual relationship b/w the observer and observe.
  4. He can get more information’s with accuracy and precision.
  5. The information’s are recorded in front of the group people.


  1. The observer may develop emotional attachment to his group which will lose the objectivity of the study.
  2. Cannot observe a certain phenomenon in a short time available to him.
  3. Cannot cover a wide area through this method.

Non-Participant Observation

The non-participant observation has a lack of participation of the observer in his group activities. He either watch the phenomena from a distance or participate in the group but never in its activities. He only sit in the group but do not interest in the process.

The difference between participant & non-participant observation is that, in the former the observer himself take part in a group and become the member of that group also participate in their activities with full fledge while the latter refers to the less or no participation of the observer in his group, their membership and activities. He watch from a distance but do not have active eye sight that what is going on in the field of research.


  1. Although observer himself never attach to the group but the objectivity maintained.
  2. Less emotional involvement of the observer leads to accuracy and greater objectivity.
  3. having secondary relationship with his group, so the information’s are collected entirely.
  4. Through non-participant observation the research remains very smooth.


  1. Do not have full knowledge about the group activities.
  2. Cannot understand the whole phenomena.
  3. Cannot get real and deep insight into the phenomena.

Controlled Observation

Here observer and observe or subject both are controlled. For systematic data collection control is imposed on both for accuracy and precision. When observation is pre-planned and definite, then it is termed as controlled observation. In control observation, mechanical devices are used for precision and standardized. So, control increase accuracy, reduce bias, ensure reliability and standardization. Some of the devices are as under.

  1. Observational plan.
  2. Observational schedule.
  3. Mechanical appliances like, camera, maps, films, video, tape recorder etc.
  4. Team of observers.
  5. Socio Matric Scale.

Un-Controlled Observation

Uncontrolled observation takes place in natural setting without the influence of external or outside control. The observer does not plan in advance but this is related to day-to-day happenings and socio-cultural problems. It studies some of our life situations.

Structured and Un-Structured Observation

It this type careful information’s are recorded in a standardized way. It is a planned observation of a phenomena and to follow certain patterns, rules and designs for the purpose what, how and when to observe, . Unstructured observation is opposite to structured. This is not systematic and un-planned observation. A researcher do not set a plan in advance but he get the information’s freely. There is no rules to follow by the researcher.

General or Layman Observation

General or layman observation make by people in day-to-day happenings. They see many things daily but there is no objectivity of their study. For example a person see the children playing in a garden is general observation.

Scientific Observation

Scientific observation is based on some scientific rules and deliberate thinking. The observer must know what to observe. He have proper planning, objectivity, hypothesis and observation schedule in his study. Scientific observation is reliable and more standardized than general observation.