Observation Methods – Types & Examples in Psychology

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There is an old saying that “seeing is believing”, and psychologists take this saying very seriously. Observation (seeing people what they do) is a very common research method in the field of psychology. However, there is not a single type of observation methods. Several methods of observation are utilised in today’s world. Do you know what those methods are? Most probably not, because if you knew, you would not be here. Well, there is no need to worry. In today’s article, we will learn about the types of observation methods, along with their examples. However, before that, let’s explain what observation is.

What is meant by observation?

Observation is one of the most used methods of research in psychology and sociology. It is also the most diverse research method, which can be done in many ways. An observational study is a research study in which the researcher watches the respondents closely and answers the research questions based on the results of observation. Observation means watching people how they perform different tasks and how they react to different situations. The observational studies are qualitative in nature, and the data obtained after utilising observation methods are mostly non-numeric and consist of words and expressions.

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Types of observation methods in psychology

From the discussion above, you now have a good idea of what is the method of observation. Now, let’s turn to our main topic, i.e., observation methods. There are several methods of observation that psychologists use to study their target population. A brief description of the four major methods is as follows:

1. Participant observation or Ethnography

The first type of observation used commonly in psychology is known as participant observation. In this kind of observation, the researcher acts as the participant. What does it mean? It means that the researcher integrates himself into the community. First, he adopts the way of life of his intended community. Once he has fully integrated himself into the norms of the society or community, he joins them as their member and studies them without their notice. This observation method is useful in the case of communities that do not want to be studied and researched.

Example

A classic example of participant observation is a researcher who travels to a distant island to study the habitats living there. Such habitats do not like to be researched. Therefore, it is important for the researcher to mould himself according to society’s norms and values.

2. Non-participant research

The next on the list of observation methods is non-participant research. In this kind of observation, the researcher does not act as the participant. He remains an outsider and observes the community members or his intended population from the sidelines. In this study, the researcher does not need to integrate himself into the life of the community. He remains as he is and studies the community from the outside.

Example

A perfect example of this method is studying the employees of a company. For this purpose, you do not need to be an employee. Instead, you can join the next meeting of the employees and observe their behaviour.

3. Covert observation

The third type of observation methods is known as covert observation. This is a kind of observation in which the researcher does not need to ask for permission for the observation. The research participants in this observational study do not know who the researcher is, and in fact, they do not know that they are being observed and studied. The researcher hides his identity well in this method.

Example

Examples of covert research studies are everywhere in our daily life. A researcher interacting on the road with a group of boys and asking them questions is an example of this study. The group of boys do not know that they are being observed.

4. Overt observation

Lastly, there is the method of overt observation. This is a method different from all the observation methods discussed above. To carry out this kind of study, the researcher first asks for permission from the respondents. Hence, the research participants know that they are being observed, and this all happens due to the mutual understanding of the observant and observer. However, if you do not know how to take permission, take help from cheap psychology essay writing services.

Example

A perfect example of overt observation is William F Whyte’s study “Street Corner Society.” William lived in the slums of the Boston district and studied the Italian immigrants there using the overt observation method.

Conclusion

To sum up, observation is a common method of research in psychology, where studying the lifestyle and behaviours of people is concerned. There are different observation methods in use these days. The four major methods are discussed above. Hence, you must go through all of them and know how to use them.

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