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

2 Answers

mkoren's profile pic

mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted on

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.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

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.