Observation - Term Overview

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Observation is defined as the action of examining something through sight in order to collect information. Therefore, observation isn't limited to fixing the view on an object or subject, but implies becoming aware of a series of data and characteristics and proceeding to their analysis.

In another context, the observation can also refer to a note, written or oral, that serves as a clarification or correction of information that may be misleading.

The method of observation

Observation is a fundamental data collection instrument, although to do it correctly, some points must first be taken into consideration. Thus, it's essential to be clear about what you want to observe and what is the best way to do it. This previous step is essential to give validity to all the subsequent development of the method. Another very important aspect is knowing how to correctly interpret the data collected. Not all observations have the same value. You have to know how to discard those that aren't important and correctly identify those that are relevant to reach a valid conclusion.

This systematization of observation leads to the possibility of differentiating three different levels

- Unsystematic observation: Which is made up of data collected in observations that have not been previously planned. These are usually direct observations, which didn't have a specific objective or planning to follow. On many occasions it's associated with chance.
- The semi-systematic observation: Here there are a series of previously set objectives. Planning is carried out in terms of order and time, but nevertheless, it's not clearly defined which behaviors are to be observed.
- Systematic observation: The facts are divided into categories, previous criteria are established, the events to be observed are set and the work is always based on previously systematized information.
- Two types of observations emerge from these levels: scientific and unsystematic observation.

Advantages and limitations of observation

Observation as a scientific method presents a series of limitations that can make its use inadvisable in certain experiments, such as those in which there is no absolute control of all the factors or also those others where it depends on chance so that the behavior to be observed is presented.

On the contrary, observation also has some advantages that make it highly recommended in certain situations, since it allows obtaining information about the facts as they happen in reality, in addition to not needing the observed object to lend itself to collaborate, or it may even be the case that in some situations observation is the only possible evaluation method.

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