Observation is one of the cheaper and more effective techniques of data collection. For instance, instead of asking consumers what brands they buy or what television programmes they view, a better alternative may be to simply observe what products are being bought and what programmes are viewed.
According to Goode and Hatt, “science begins with observation and must ultimately returns to observation for its final validation and according to the concise”.
Oxford dictionary observation, “accurate watching and noting of phenomena as they occur in nature with regard to cause and effect or mutual relation’ . In other words, observation may be defined as seeing with a purpose.
In the words of P.V. Young, “it is a systematic viewing coupled with consideration of the phenomena that is seen as such, observation is carried out by looking at things”. Its purpose and aim is to discover significant mutual relations between spontaneously accruing events, there by pinpointing the crucial facts of a situation.
Observation is also defined as the process of recognizing and noting people, object and occurrences rather than asking for information.
In the observation method, without asking respondents, the investigator obtains information through his own direct observation. For example, in studying consumer behaviour towards watches, the investigator can directly observe what type of watches individuals are wearing instead of asking them through questionnaires. As far as social science go, observation is the most common and important method used in collecting data on the behaviour of human being.