One of the techniques often used to gather information is simply by watching. However observation for data collection may be good in gathering quantitative information, information for subjective review may not be accurate. The mere presence of an observer may influence the actions, and hence the data outcome, of those being observed.
For example, stationing an observer, which can also be a mechanical device, to determine how many yellow vehicles travel through a particular intersection during a specific time frame, can offer accurate observation for data collection.
However, that cannot provide the reason more yellow cars went through that intersection as opposed to another one a few blocks away. That would require a separate technique involving personal interaction.
Objective decision can also be made using observation for data collection of behaviors, but remember if those being watched are aware of the observation it may alter their normal behaviors.
For example, if a group of students is aware they are being watched in an effort to learn a school’s drinking habits, they can alter their behavior to either show an increase or decrease in the behavior in an attempt to alter the outcome.
Observation Can Help Decide Other Methods
Observing habits and structure can often lead to recommendations for changes in methods to make the outcome more positive. For instance, if a group of students is observed with data collected on how much time they spend on assignments on given days, the results of this observation for data collection can help determine if adjustments are needed in the way assignments are handed out, and on what days.
There are different types of observation for data collection including open, as opposed to hidden, natural observation can be used, as can contrived, but the key is observation for data collection without verbal communication. As an example of this, think of frequent shoppers who cruise businesses, collecting information on a variety of elements within the business.
Another example of observation for data collection could be traffic counters, although usually left to mechanical devices, determining how often traffic flows into a specific direction may be more accurate by human observation.
When using observation for data collection the behavior being observed should be of a short time frame and should also be frequent and almost predictable. Behavioral information must also be taken from behaviors that are real and observed as opposed to expected behavior.