Observation and Survey Methods in Research Project Analyzed

Research projects have been an important tool in getting an answer to the questions and subjects that become an interest of the human mind. This enhances and demonstrates wide range of skills that is pertinent and related to schooling, work and even in life. In conducting research projects, it is important that the researcher make informed choices and has determined the possible effects of that informed choices.
Research projects can be classified as pure research or applied research. These forms may vary in its purpose however the structures and procedures in obtaining the relevant information and in preparing and making the hypothesis are just the same (Shuttleworth 2008). Moreover, scope of research varies from field to field and as one progresses with his/her studies more knowledge and learning will be taught about research and its procedures.
There are several forms of research. This can be scientific or social research (Crossman 2010). Nevertheless, regardless of the form of the research, it is always done for specific purpose – and that is to find answer to the questions and to verify the hypothesis and assumptions. In sociology, the social research is the most common type of research that is utilized. Though it has various purposes but the three main and most significant purposes are to explore, to describe and to explain (Fox 1998).
Further, several methods are utilized in conducting project research. This may include conducting interviews, survey questions and also observation which is commonly used in scientific research (Driscoll 2011). How do these processes differ and when to employ them? These are questions that this paper seeks to answer.
Research using Observation
It has always been a truth that observations had led the human race to several significant discoveries in human history. Driscoll had cited Charles Darwin as a good example as he had made his greatest contribution to science through his observations with the nature and behaviour of animals (2011: 11). Generally, this is the method of research that is used by social scientist, natural scientists, engineers and educational researchers. This method can be employed in almost all subject matters depending on how the researcher delivers the research question.
Driscoll has further classified observation as participant observation and unobtrusive observation (2011:9-10). The participant observation is commonly used among ethnographic research in sociology and anthropology. This is done through interaction between the researcher and the participants, hence the researcher will be part of the community in order to observe and record the necessary behaviours and practices of the participants living in the community. On the other hand, unobtrusive observation there is no interaction between the researcher and the respondents or participants. In most cases participants are not informed about the observations done on their behaviour and interaction.
One advantage of observational research is the reduction of the distorted information. This is one of the limitations present in the survey method. This is due to the fact that in observational research the researcher is present in the community and is directly observing the subject whether in the laboratory for laboratory observation or in the natural setting if the naturalistic observation is employed (Meyer 1998). With this set-up it can be ascertain that the natural behaviour and experiences of the participants are clearly recorded and accounted by the researcher. Moreover, the results and information obtained are not affected by the emotions of the participants such as being embarrassed and intimidated.
Nevertheless, this type of observation has also its limitation. One of this is subject bias. This is due to the fact that the observed subjects may not be the representative of the general public. Individuals who agree to observation may behave and interact differently knowing that they are being observed and monitored.
Research Using Survey Methods
Trochim had considered survey research as one of the most significant research method in applied social research (2006). One of its important features is the utilization of measurement procedures which provide wider scope for the researcher in obtaining the necessary information such as conducting interviews, focus-group discussions and paper-pen interviews (Meyer 1998). After this, the researcher will analyze the obtained information then the prediction about the studied subject will be made.
Just like any other kinds of research methods, the survey method has also its strengths and imitations. Its advantages include the wide scope and broader means of obtaining data. This can be done by personal interviews, conversation over the phone or even through email. With these methods, obtaining data is achieved even at a shorter period of time and with limited costs. Moreover, surveys conducted via the phone or electronic mails ensure anonymity of the respondents which is also other advantage of this method, hence prompting the respondents to answer the questions candidly.
Conversely, its disadvantages may include volunteer bias, interviewer bias and information distortion (Fox 1998). Volunteer bias may happen if the respondents taken were not the representative of the general population. This bias commonly happens when the survey questions were only given to those who are eager to answer the questions. On the other hand, the interviewer bias occur when the subject`s response and answers were affected and influenced on the behaviour of the researcher such as frowning or smiling. Indeed the facial expressions and gestures of the interviewer can affect the way the respondent answer to the questions. However, this type of bias can is avoided in interviews done over the phone or through sending electronic mails. Distortion of information happens when the respondents do not answer the questions truthfully.
While it is true that research project using observation and survey methods differ in the way they are conducted and on the advantages and its influences on the result of the research, still the purposes they serve are still the same. Whatever method is utilized in conducting social research it is still for the three main purposes. These are to explore, to describe and to explain. Example, exploration occurs when the researcher wants to investigate significant variables in the community and how do these variable affects the society. Moreover, description occurs when the researcher observes and conducts survey on how a certain ethnic group interacts with each other and what is its implication to the progress of that society. Explanation happens when the researcher finds relevant information from observation or survey on the possible reason why such practices are done in a particular community.
Moreover, the validity of the results of researches be it through observation or survey methods is greatly influenced by the manner the information are obtained and on how respondents provide the relevant information for the researcher. Hence, it is very significant that researcher has to take the precautionary measures not to affect the way respondents interact and answer to the questions.
List of References
Crossman, A. (2010) The purpose of Research [online] Available from
http://sociology.about.com/od/Research/a/Purposes-Of-Research.htm [10 March 2013]
Driscoll, D.L. (2011) `Introductions to Primary Research: Observations, Surveys, and Interviews` Writing Spaces: Readings on Writing, Volume 2 [pdf] Available from http://wac.colostate.edu/books/writingspaces2/driscoll–introduction-to-primary- research.pdf> [10 March 2013]
Fox, N. (1998) `How to Use Observation in a Research Project` Trent Focus for Research and Development in primary Health Care [pdf] Available fromhttp://web.simmons.edu/~tang2/courses/CUAcourses/lsc745/sp05/observation .pdf [10 March 2013]
Meyer, J. (1998) Early Steps in Research` Research Methods Tutorial [online] Available from [10 March 2013]
Shuttleworth, M. (2008) Purpose of Research[online] Available from http://explorable.com/purpose-of-research [10 March 2013]