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            Observation is the process of observing what is occurring in some real life situation. It is through observation that the overt behaviour of individuals is examined. It is natural way of gathering research data. It is used to evaluate the overt behaviour of individuals in controlled and uncontrolled situations. Observational methods have occupied an important place in descriptive educational research.

In the words of Goods, “Observation deals with the overt behaviour of persons in appropriate situation”.

John Dollard puts it, “The primary research instrument would seem to be the observing human intelligence to make sense out of human experience “.


Planning of Observation:

Observation as a research technique must always be expert and directed for a specific purpose. There are many plans for Observation. They are:

  1. Specific activities or unit of behaviour to be observed must be clearly defined.
  2. An appropriate group of subjects be selected to observe.
  3. The length of observation period, number of periods and interval between periods should be decided.
  4. The form of recording should be determined.
  5. The instruments to be used should be decided.
  6. Proper tools for recording observation be kept handy.
  7. Various terms may be studied.
  8. Interpreting of observations.




Execution of Observation:

An expert execution demands skill and resourcefulness on the part of the investigator. This depends upon:

  1. Proper arrangement of specific condition for the subject.
  2. Assuming proper physical conditions for observing.
  3. Focusing attention on he units of behaviour on the specific activities under observation.
  4. Proper handling of the recording instrument being used.
  5. Utilizing will the training received in terms of expertness.


Types of observation:

Observation may be of different types, such as, Participant Observation, Non-Participant observation, Structured Observation and Unstructured Observation.

  1. Participant Observation: Here the observer plays a double role. He becomes by and large a member of the group under observation and shares the situation as a visiting stranger, an eager learner and an attentive listener.
  2. Non-Participant Observation: This is used with such groups as infants, children or abnormal persons. It permits the use of recording instrument and the gathering of larger quantity of data.
  3. Structured Observation: This observation starts with relatively specific formulations. The observer in advance sets up categories in terms of which he wished to analyze the problem.
  4. Unstructured Observation: It mainly takes the form of Participant observation. The observer takes the role of a member of the group.


Uses and Advantages of Observation:

  1. Observation is used as a data–gathering tool in many educational researches.
  2. It is a study of an individual in a natural situation and is therefore more useful than the restricted study in a test situation.
  3. It is through observation that infants, older children, young and old are studied systematically and scientifically.
  4. Abnormal psychology is another field, where neurotics and psychotics are studied by way of observation.
  5. It is adaptable to both individuals and groups.




Limitations of Observation: 

  1. It is an expensive method.
  2. The information provided by this method is very limited.
  3. Sometimes unforeseen factors may interfere with the observational task.
  4. There is a great scope for personal prejudice and bias of the observer.
  5. The observer may get only a small sample of student behaviour. It is very difficult to observe everything that a student does or says.
  6. It reveals the overt behaviour only – behaviour that is expressed and not within.





             A questionnaire is a form prepared and distributed to secure responses to certain questions. It is a device for securing answers to questions by using a form, which the respondent fills by himself. It is a systematic compilation of questions that are submitted to a sampling of population from which information is desired. The questionnaire procedure normally comes into use where one cannot readily see personally all of the people from whom he desires responses or where there is no particular reason to see them personally.

            Questionnaire is described as “a document that contains a set of questions, the answers to which are to be provided personally by the respondents.”

            Questionnaire is used as a tool when:

  1. very large samples are desired
  2. costs have to be kept low
  3. the target groups who are likely to have high response rates are specialized
  4. ease of administration is necessary
  5. moderate response rate is considered satisfactory

Types / Forms of Questionnaire:

  1. Structured vs. Non-structured – The structured contains definite, concrete and directed questions. The questions are presented with exactly the same wording and in the same order to all the respondents. The unstructured consists of partially completed questions or statements. Formulation of questions largely depends on the interviewee. Replies are to be taken down in the respondent’s own words.
  2. Closed form vs. Open form – The questions that call for short check responses are known as restricted or closed form type. For e.g., marking a ‘yes’ or ‘no’, a short response, or checking an item out of a list of given responses. It restricts the choice of response for the respondent. The open form, or unrestricted type calls for a free response in the respondent’s own words. No clues are given. The respondent is given freedom to respond.
  3. Fact and Opinion Questionnaire – George A. Lindberg classified questionnaires as
  1. Questionnaire of fact, which requires certain information of facts from the respondent without any reference to his opinion or attitude about them, and
  2. Questionnaire of opinion and attitude in which the informant’s opinion, attitude of preference regarding some phenomena is sought.

Characteristics of a good Questionnaire –

  1. It deals with a significant topic. The significance should be clearly and carefully stated.
  2. It only seeks information that cannot be obtained from other sources.
  3. It is as short as possible and only long enough to get the essential data.
  4. It is attractive in appearance.
  5. Clear directions are given.
  6. The questions are objective.
  7. Questions proceed from general to specific responses.
  8. It is easy to tabulate and interpret.


Preparing and administering the Questionnaire –

  1. Get all the help possible in planning and constructing the questionnaire.
  2. Use a separate card or slop for each item in the Questionnaire for easy refinement or modification.
  3. “Pilot test” with a small group of persons similar to those who will be used in the study.
  4. Choose respondents carefully. It is important to send only to those who possess the desired information and who are interested.
  5. Send original request to a superior officer who will then direct the person who has the desired information.
  6. If the questionnaire is to be used in a public school, approval from the principal should be secured.
  7. Parental permission may also need to be secured.
  8. Student consent may also need to be secured.
  9. If desired information is delicate or intimate in nature, anonymity of responses should be considered.
  10. If identification is needed, in case of follow up meetings, respondents should be convinced that their responses would be held in strict confidence.
  11. The aid of sponsorship should be enlisted.


Steps in Questionnaire construction –

            The most common steps are

  1. Preparation – the researcher thinks of various items to be covered, arrangement of these items in relation to one another, taking into consideration questions prepared and used in other similar studies.
  2. Constructing the first draft – The researcher formulates a number of questions.
  3. Self-evaluation – Relevance, symmetry, clarity in language, etc.
  4. External evaluation – The first draft is given to experts for scrutiny and suggestions, modifications for improvements.
  5. Revision – According to expert’s suggestions, modification is made in the questions.
  6. Pre-test or pilot study – to check the suitability.
  7. Revision – Minor or major changes may be made.
  8. Second pre-testing – Revised questionnaire is then subjected to a second test and amended, if necessary.
  9. Preparing final draft – After editing, checking spellings, space for response, pre-coding, the final draft is prepared.


Advantages –

  1. Lower cost – Questionnaires are less expensive than other methods.
  2. Timesaving – Time required is usually less than face-to-face interviews.
  3. Accessibility to widespread respondents – Respondents separated geographically can be reached by correspondence, which saves travel cost.
  4. No interviewer’s bias – The researcher cannot have any influence on the responses since he is not physically present.
  5. Greater anonymity – The absence of the interviewer assures privacy to the respondents to express free opinions and answers even to intimate questions.
  6. Respondent’s convenience – the respondent can fill-in the questionnaire leisurely at his own convenience.
  7. Standardized wordings – Each respondent is exposed to same words. Comparison of answers is thus facilitated.
  8. No variation – Questionnaires are a stable, consistent and uniform measure, without variation.


Disadvantages –

  1. The mailed questionnaires can be used only for educated people. This restricts the number of respondents.
  2. The return rate of questionnaires is low. (30 – 40 %)
  3. Error in mailing address may omit some eligible respondents.
  4. Misunderstanding of questions cannot be corrected.
  5. Absence of researcher to explain meaning of questions may cause the respondents to leave out the questions.
  6. They do not provide an opportunity to collect additional information.
  7. Somebody else besides the person selected may fill up the questionnaire.
  8. Many questions remain unanswered.
  9. The respondent can c0nsult other persons and may not give truthful response.
  10. The reliability of respondent’s background information cannot be verified. E.g., a graduate can identify himself as Post-graduate etc.  



The interview is a process of communication or interaction in which the subject or interviewee gives the needed information verbally in a face to face situation. This method of collecting data involves presentation of oral-verbal stimuli and reply in terms of oral-verbal responses.

The method of interview is used very extensively in every field of social research. As a research tool or as a method of data collection, interview is different from general interviewing with regard to its preparation, construction and execution. This difference is that: research interview is prepared and executed in a systematic way, it is controlled by the researcher to avoid bias and distortion, and it is related to a specific research question and a specific purpose.

Types of interview:

  1. Research Interview: In research field, Lindzey Gardner (1968:527) has defined interview as “a two-person conversation, initiated by the interviewer for the specific purpose of obtaining research – relevant information and focused by him on the content specified by the research objectives of description and explanation.” In the research interview, thus, the interviewer asks specific questions pertaining to research objectives/criteria and the respondent restricts his answers to specific questions posed by the interviewer.

For the purposes of research, interview may be used as a tool for gathering data required by the researcher to test hypothesis or solve his problems of historical, experimental, survey or clinical type of research. This type of interview is called ‘research interview’.

  1. Clinical Interview: Social workers and psychiatrists use interview to secure information about an individual’s problem, his past history, job or family adjustment. In such situations, the major purposes of interview are diagnosis and treatment.
  2. Individual and group interview: The interviewer may interview only one individual at a time. This is called individual interview.

In group interview, a group of individuals are interviewed by an interviewer. The size of the group should neither be too small, nor too large. According to Good, (1966, p 232) “The optimum size is approximately 10 to 12 persons. A circular seating arrangement, with the interviewer as one of the group, is conducive to full and spontaneous reporting and participation.”

  1. Structured Interview: This type of interview involves the use of a set of predetermined questions and of highly standardized techniques of recording. The interviewer in a structured interview follows a rigid procedure laid down, asking questions in a form and order prescribed, i.e. the same type of questions are presented in the same order to each interviewee, and wording of the instructions to the interviewees is specified. The interviewer has no freedom to rephrase questions, add extra ones, or change the order in which the questions have to be presented. Structured interviews impose a degree of formality which does not permit the interviewer to establish the kind of relationship between himself and the interviewee which is necessary if the interview is to be conducted at some depth.
  2. Unstructured Interview: This type of interview is characterized by a flexibility of approach to questioning. Unstructured interviews do not follow a system of pre-determined questions and standardized techniques of recording information. The interviewer is allowed much greater freedom to ask, in case of need, supplementary questions or at times he may omit certain questions if the situation so requires. He may even change the sequence of questions. He has relatively greater freedom while recording the responses to include some aspects and exclude others. But this sort of flexibility results in lack of comparability of one interview with another and the analysis becomes much more difficult and time-consuming than that of structured responses. It also demands deep knowledge and greater skill on the part of the interviewer.

However, unstructured interview is the central technique of collecting information in case of exploratory or formulative research studies. In case of descriptive studies, the technique of structured interview is often used because of its being economical, providing a safe basis for generalization and requiring relatively lesser skill on the part of the interviewer.


Techniques of Interview:

  1. Preparation of the interview: The interviewer must decide exactly what kind of data the interview should yield, whether the structured or unstructured procedure will be more useful, and how the results of the interview, should be recorded. The interviewer must have a clear idea of the sort of information he needs, and accordingly he may prepare questions which will extract that information.
  2. Conduct of interview: In the execution of an interview, a harmonious relationship between the interviewer and the interviewee is most essential. A good rapport helps the interviewee to feel at ease and express himself willingly. In order to establish a good rapport, the interviewer should greet the interviewee in a friendly manner so as to get him settled in a new situation in a relaxed manner.

Turney and Robb (1971, pp 134-135) have suggested certain rules that should be followed during the conduct of interview to facilitate data collecting:

  1. Ask only one question at a time
  2. Repeat a question if necessary
  3. Try to make sure that the subject understands the question
  4. Listen carefully to the subject’s answers
  5. Observe the subject’s facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice
  6. Allow the subject sufficient time to answer the question, but do not let the interview drag
  7. Avoid suggesting answers to the questions
  8. Do not show signs of surprise, shock, anger, or other emotions if unexpected answers are given
  9. Maintain a neutral attitude with respect to controversial issues during the interview
  10. Take note of answers that seem to be vague, ambiguous, or evasive
  11. In the unstructured interview, ask  additional questions to follow up clues or to obtain additional information
  12. Use tact and skill in getting the subject back to an area of inquiry when he has strayed too far from the original question.

The interviewer should wind up the interview before the respondent becomes tired.

  1. Recording of the interview: The interviewer may make use of a schedule, a structured format, rating scale or a tape recorder to record the responses of the interview. The use of a tape recorder may have fruitful advantages over the other methods. One advantage is that it permits the interviewer to devote full attention to the interviewee and save much of his time, which he may have to utilize in recording the responses during or after the interview.

Advantages of Interview method:

  1. More information and that too in greater depth can be obtained.
  2. Interviewer by his own skill can overcome the resistance, if any, of the respondents.
  3. There is greater flexibility.
  4. Observation method can as well be applied.
  5. Personal information can as well be obtained easily.
  6. Samples can be controlled more effectively as there arises no difficulty of the missing returns.
  7. Misinterpretations concerning questions can be avoided.
  8. The interviewer can collect supplementary information about the respondent’s personal characteristics and environment which is often of great value in interpreting results.


Disadvantages of Interview method:

  1. It is a very expensive method, especially when sample is large and widely spread.
  2. There is possibility of the bias of interviewer as well as of the respondent.
  3. Certain types of respondents (VIPs etc) may not be easily approachable; hence data may not be adequate.
  4. This method is more time consuming, especially when sample is large.
  5. The presence of the interviewer in the spot may over-stimulate the respondent. He may give imaginary information just to make the interview interesting.
  6. The organisation required for selecting, training and supervising the field staff is more complex.
  7. Interviewing at times may also introduce systematic errors.
  8. Effective interview presupposes proper rapport with respondents. This is often a very difficult requirement.



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