Please explain how surveys and the observation approach compare and contrast with one another.

Quick answer:

Surveys and observational approaches are similar to one another in that they're both concerned with gathering relevant information. The main difference between them is that surveys are more objective, whereas observation entails researchers immersing themselves in a particular culture.

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Social researchers in many different fields use both surveys and observational approaches in conducting in-depth, qualitative research. Some researchers will use one method or the other or, in some cases, a combination of both. It all depends on the nature of the research that's being conducted.

Yet there are notable differences between observation and surveys. For one thing, they each have a different overriding purpose. Surveys are concerned with identifying the needs of individuals within a certain group. So for instance, researchers conducting surveys for market research companies will be looking to identify and understand the buying habits of a designated group.

Observation, on the other hand, is concerned with recording people's behavior during their normal, everyday lives—what they say, what they do, and so on. This is a common method among anthropologists, who use observation as a way of understanding the patterns of behavior displayed by a particular group such as a tribe or clan.

As the overriding aims of surveys are generally much more modest than those of observation, the individual researcher can maintain a certain distance from those they are surveying. With observation, on the other hand, it pays to become immersed in the culture that one is observing, thus blurring the distinction between the observer and the observed. This kind of participant observation, as it's called, is a more continuous process than the conducting of surveys, which of its nature tends to require one-off communication. Those conducting such surveys do not need to immerse themselves in the daily lives of the people with whom they are dealing.

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Surveys and observations are similar in that both are forms of primary research, where the purpose is to learn about something new in the world in the least biased way possible. The ways to approach both studies are also similar. One major consideration before conducing either study is the necessity of voluntary participation. In most cases, participants need to give permission before you can involve them in the research. Another consideration is researcher bias, which may be present in the way you ask certain questions, the way you document the answers, or the way you come to conclusions about your results.

One of the main differences between surveys and observations is in the way the information is collected. Observations are conducted by observing the world around you, from the people around you to any measurable event. The observations and answers being collected are made by the researchers themselves, not by the participants. Observational studies often also involve researchers immersing themselves for a period of time in a specific environment to gain a better understanding of their research subject. It may require months of fieldwork for the researcher to fully immerse themselves and communicate with the research subjects in order to adequately collect data.

In contrast, surveys often involve asking participants about their own opinions on a specific matter through carefully selected questions. Surveys can often be completed in a much faster time frame than observational studies (minutes vs months) and through various methods, from phone calls to mailers to online and face-to-face surveys. Unlike the observation approach, surveys do not require you to immerse yourself in the daily lives of your research subjects. Instead, they usually involve a one-time communication and can also be completed anonymously at times.

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Surveys and the observation approach are both great tools for sociologists and researchers.

A survey, which is a list of questions either answered on paper or answered verbally in a one-on-one scenario, are a great way for the researcher to acquire quantitative data. Due to the fact that a survey is generally done on paper (or online), it is possible and affordable to get a large number of participants to take part in the study.

Observation, on the other hand, involves the researcher going into a situation (for example a cultural setting or perhaps an office environment) and silently watching how people go about their day to day lives. By observing what people do and how they interact with each other, the researcher can acquire a lot of qualitative data.

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Surveys and observations have some similarities and some differences. One similarity is that they are both ways to gather information about a topic. This information may be helpful to a business, company, or researcher.

A difference between a survey and an observation is that the survey is completed by other people, not by the observer. A survey is usually given to many people to get an overall picture of a situation. An observation is done by a small number of people. Oftentimes, one person does an observation.

Another difference is that the observation may lead to a different picture being painted. A person doing an observation will record what he or she sees when doing the observation. A survey might not be filled out honestly for fear of being identified or fear of repercussions if a negative picture is painted. People may intentionally try to sway a survey’s results by exaggerating the responses they give.

Both observations and surveys are helpful in getting a good picture of a given situation. It is important to remember that these two methods of collecting data are different from each other and may lead to very different conclusions about a given situation.

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The major point of comparison between surveys and observation is that both can be used to gather information of various sorts.  Of course, this is a very thin similarity.  There are many more differences.  Some of the most important of these include:

Surveys gather information by asking others.  Observation gather information through the perceptions of the person doing the observing.

Surveys can find out things that are not visible to the eye.  A survey can find out things like the average incomes of your customers.  Observation cannot.

Observation may be more objective.  If you ask your employees (in a survey) whether they are ever rude to customers, they will surely say “no.”  But if you have someone secretly observing them, the observer can have a more objective perspective on the interactions between employees and customers.

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