Observation can thus be defined as methodically controlled non random purposive examination of the actions of one or several individuals in order to discover some distinct characteristic of personality. Observation can be done in various ways. The types of observation are: structured, unstructured, participant, non participant, controlled and uncontrolled. In structured observation the units to be observed are carefully defined in advance, the style of recording is definite, conditions standardized and pertinent data recorded.
It is appropriate in descriptive studies.
Observation is said to be unstructured when it takes place without the above mentioned characteristic thought of in advance. This type of observation is best suited for exploratory studies.
If the observer observes by making himself, more or less, a member of the group he is observing so that he can experience the happenings around him, the observation is called participant observation.
When the observer is observing the group not being a part of it then we talk of non participant observation. It can also take the form of disguised observation.
When observation takes place according to definite pre-arranged plans, involving experimental procedures, the same is then termed as controlled observation.
When observation takes place in a natural setting, it may be termed as uncontrolled observation.
The main drawback of it is subjective interpretation. If observation is done accurately, subjective bias is eliminated. The information obtained using the observation method relates to what is currently happening. This method is independent of respondent’s willingness to respond. However, it is a very expensive method. The information provided is very limited and sometimes unforeseen factors may interfere with the observational task.