In unstructured observation, the group being monitored includes the observer in their regular everyday activities. The observer typically belongs to the group. Insofar as events are observed in real-time, it is a naturalistic observation method. We now list some of the advantages and disadvantages of unstructured observation.
Advantages of Unstructured Observation:
- A benefit of unstructured observation is that only a minimal preparation is required.
- It captures unforeseen actions or alterations since the observation occurs in a usual real-life setting.
- It enables different levels of researcher engagement or views with the context or activity being studied.
- It is oriented toward the present and records events as they happen.
- It has a “reality verifying” quality where what people say they do and what they actually do may be compared.
- It enables the study of individuals who might be unable to provide accurate accounts of their own actions. For instance, it might be challenging to examine elderly patients in nursing homes who are frail using any other method.
- It enables the investigation of subjects who might be reluctant to provide their own accounts of their behavior.
Disadvantages of Unstructured Observation:
- A demerit is that it might not be objective because it is only based on the observer’s point of view. This phenomenon is known as observer bias.
- It may distract from the study of important behaviors because it is often highly detailed and descriptive.
- Another weakness is that the information gathered may be too unorganized and hence require excessive organization.
- It relies on recollection, making it challenging to carry out if not backed up by additional data.