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

Expert Answers
mkoren eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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.