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Observations in sociology: varieties
When a sociologist deals with objects that can be observed, that is, perceived through sight and hearing, he is obliged to do so. Using the example of the study of the strike, we say that this study is not possible without observing the behavior of potential strikers, their leaders and opposing leaders of the enterprise. No less obvious is another – observation in this case (as, incidentally, in all others) should be used in conjunction with other methods of collecting information.
Observation in sociological research is a method of collecting and the simplest generalization of primary information about the studied social object by direct perception and direct registration of facts related to the studied object. Units of information of this method are recorded acts of verbal or nonverbal (real) behavior of people. In contrast to the natural sciences, where observation is considered the main and relatively simple method of data collection, in sociology it is one of the most complex and time-consuming research methods.
In addition, sociological observation is integrated into virtually all methods of sociological science. For example, a sociological survey can be presented as a specific observation of respondents through a questionnaire, and a social experiment contains two acts of observation: at the beginning of the study and at the end of the experimental variables.
Sociological observation is characterized by a number of features. First, it should be aimed at socially important areas, ie the circumstances, events and facts that are essential for the development of the individual, the team, and in this it must meet the social order of society. Secondly, monitoring should be purposeful, organized and systematic.
Advantages and disadvantages of the method of observation
It should be noted that the advantages of the method of sociological observation are quite clear and are as follows. First, it is the immediacy of perception, which allows you to capture specific, natural situations, facts, living fragments of life, rich in details, colors, halftones, etc. Secondly, it is an opportunity to take into account the specific behavior of groups of real people. Currently, this problem is practically unsolvable by other sociological methods. Third, observation does not depend on the willingness of the observed people to express themselves, which is typical, for example, of a sociological interview. Here it is necessary to take into account the probability of “pretending” to observe, because they know that they are being watched. Fourth, it is the multidimensionality of this method, which makes it possible to capture events and processes most fully and comprehensively. Great multidimensionality is characteristic of the most experienced observers.
Observation has a number of advantages over other sociological methods. The main ones are the direct connection of the researcher with the object of his study, the lack of mediating links, the efficiency of obtaining information. These advantages, however, do not exclude a number of disadvantages. Whether the observer freely involuntarily influences the studied process, he brings into it something that does not belong to his nature. Efficiency turns into locality, limited research situation, inability to cover the totality of all signs of a recognizable phenomenon. In other words, this method is very subjective, the personal qualities of the observer are not infrequently affected by his results. Therefore, firstly, the latter are subject to mandatory re-examination by other methods, and secondly, the conduct of observers is subject to special requirements. The nature of these requirements depends, first of all, on the type of observation they carry out.
Types of observations and their characteristics
It is believed that observation originated and is still used most often in anthropology – the science of the origin, evolution of man and human races. Anthropologists observe the way of life, customs, manners and traditions of forgotten and few peoples, tribes of communities, their relationships and interactions. From anthropology to sociology came not only the methodology and techniques of observation, but also their classification. However, observation in everyday life and scientific observation are far from the same.
Each type of sociological observation has its advantages and disadvantages. The task of the sociologist is to choose, modify the type of observation, the most appropriate to the nature and characteristics of the object under study. Thus, with the help of uncontrolled observation are studied mainly real life situations in order to describe them. This type of observation is very phenomenological, carried out without a solid plan and is exploratory, reconnaissance. It only allows you to “feel” the problem, which can later be subjected to controlled monitoring. The latter is more stringent and consists in monitoring, increasing the number of observers, conducting a series of observations, etc.
Types of observations:
non-included and included observation, dividing the latter into hidden (incognito) and open;
laboratory, field and laboratory – field observation;
standardized and non-standardized observation;
systematic, episodic and random observations.
Place of observation among other data collection methods
The main disadvantage of this method is the bias of the observer. A person very rarely assesses the situation completely impartially (it tends to draw conclusions). The personal characteristics of the observer clearly affect his impressions. The events of the past, many phenomena and processes of mass character, the isolation of a small part of which, makes their study unrepresentative, are not subject to observation. Observation is mainly used as an additional method to gather materials to get started or to help verify the results of other methods of gathering information.
Method of observation in sociology and political science
Social observation is a directed, systematic, direct registration of socially significant phenomena.
Features of the method:
- the situation of observation is in many respects unique and unrepeatable, observation gives a kind of snapshot of the phenomenon, characterizes its state here and now.
- the purpose and objectives of observation are private, so the generalization of the results of observation is quite limited.
- observation helps to avoid the influence of the properties of the object on the information, but increases the impact.
- qualities of the researcher on the nature of this information.