Observation research

The quality of data collected using interview methods is dependent on individuals being willing and able to report their behaviour or attitudes verbally. In certain circumstances people may be unable to do this, not because they are unwilling to do so, but simply because they do not mentally record the data required, and are therefore unable to report it. An example of this would be if you wished to know what items a housewife had taken from a supermarket shelf and considered purchasing, but had not actually purchased; or if you wished to know the path an individual had taken around an art gallery, what exhibits they stopped to look at, and for how long. In both instances it would be highly unlikely that the individuals concerned could give an accurate account of their behaviour. Such information can be readily obtained by observation. Observation techniques are also widely used by social researchers, in road planning and underpass siting for pedestrians, for example. They can be used by industrial firms to check interest in exhibition stands. The method is therefore of wide application, and where the data required is about what people do rather than why they do it, it can provide accurate data, free of the possible biases of interviewer effect and faulty memory. These advantages make observation especially useful in collecting data about routine consumer behaviour on a continuous basis.

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