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.
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.