Collection of data is the most crucial part of any research project as the success or failure of the project is dependent upon the accuracy of the data. Use of wrong methods of data collection or any inaccuracy in collecting data can have significant impact on the results of a study and may lead to results that are not valid. There are many techniques of data collection along a continuum and observation and interviewing are two of the popular methods on this continuum that has quantitative methods at one end while qualitative methods at the other end. Though there are many similarities in these two methods and they serve the same basic purpose, there are differences that will be highlighted in this article.
Observation, as the name implies refers to situations where participants are observed from a safe distance and their activities are recorded minutely. It is a time consuming method of data collection as you may not get the desired conditions that are required for your research and you may have to wait till participants are in the situation you want them to be in. Classic examples of observation are wild life researchers who wait for the animals of birds to be in a natural habitat and behave in situations that they want to focus upon. As a method of data collection, observation has limitations but produces accurate results as participants are unaware of being closely inspected and behave naturally.
Interviewing is another great technique of data collection and it involves asking questions to get direct answers. These interviews could be either one to one, in the form of questionnaires, or the more recent form of asking opinions through internet. However, there are limitations of interviewing as participants may not come up with true or honest answers depending upon privacy level of the questions. Though they try to be honest, there is an element of lie in answers that can distort results of the project.
Though both observation and interviewing are great techniques of data collection, they have their own strengths and weaknesses. It is important to keep in mind which one of the two will produce desired results before finalizing.
- Data collection is an integral part of any research and various techniques are employed for this purpose.
- Observation requires precise analysis by the researcher and often produces most accurate results although it is very time consuming.
- Interviewing is easier but suffers from the fact that participants may not come up with honest replies.