Observation is the active acquisition of information from a primary source. In living beings, observation employs the senses. In science, observation can also involve the recording of data via the use of instruments. The term may also refer to any data collected during the scientific activity. Observations can be qualitative, that is, only the absence or presence of a property is noted, or quantitative if a numerical value is attached to the observed phenomenon by counting or measuring.
Observation as data collection tool has the following advantages.
- Data are collected directly
- Substantial amount of data can be collected in a relatively short time span.
- Provides pre-recorded data and ready for analysis.
- In the observation reliability is high.
However, observation is a scientific technique to the extent that it serves a formulated research purpose, planned systematically rather than occurring haphazardly, systematically recorded and related to more general propositions and subjected to checks and controls with respect to validity and reliability.
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