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Good Scientific Observations

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  Good scientific observations (or sets of observations) share two characteristics: 1.   They use as many of the five senses  as possible, and 2.   they are as detailed  as possible.  What are the general characteristics of Observation? Every moment we are exposed to some kind of events or occurrences. If we try to frame some definite opinion about the events we come across, we have to observe the instances keenly. The random observation of instances won't help for any clear understanding of the phenomena of nature. In the words of Jevon, To observe is merely to notice events and changes which are produced in the ordinary course of nature, without being able, or at least attempting to control or  vary those changes . In this way, observations performed with a definite purpose are different from the casual perceptions. 'Observation' has been derived from the Greek words 'ob' and 'servare'. The above two words stand for the meanings 'to keep' and 'before the mind' respectively. The knowledge derived by placing something before the mind leads to observational knowledge. Usually the perceptual knowledge is considered as the observational knowledge. But in respect of the inductive reasoning 'observation' has been defined as regulated perception with a definite purpose. It shows that three factors are involved in the case of an observation. There must be some object to be observed, the sense organs to observe the object and the mind to become aware of it. This process is repeated for several times in order to arrive at a conclusion. Characteristics:  i. Observation is the case of regulated perception of events. Observations are made by help of sense organs. So it is basically perceptual. Perception may be either external or internal. Perception of natural events or occurrences is external perception. To know something directly by introspection without using the sense organs is called internal perception. Feeling of sorrow, joy, happiness etc. is internal perception.   A vast nature is present before us. Every moment we come across some event of nature. When similar types of events are observed in repeated manner, one feels to find out an explanation with regard to the functioning of nature. That helps us to distinguish the random or casual perception from regulated perception. ii. Observation should be systematic and selective. Observation excludes the cases of careless and stray perceptions. It should be systematic and selective. When the purpose of observation is decided we select those instances, which have got relevance with the purpose. Suppose we want to observe the colour of the crows. Then out of the different types of birds we select only crows to observe. Hence perception should not be careless or a casual one. The aim of perceptions is to establish some generalized truths. A general truth cannot be derived from stray or casual perception. The perception should be systematic and selective. Observation should be impartial and free from any bias. It means that the observation should be strictly objective. Sometimes in order to establish a definite conclusion we overlook certain instances, which are not favourable to the conclusion. For example, when a sales representative demonstrates the utilities of a particular product he only shows us some of the suitable utilities of it. He overlooks those instances, which are not favourable for the purpose of demonstration. This is an example of biased observation. Such types of biased observation should be avoided. Observations should be objective. Similarly, observation should be neutral. If the neutrality is not maintained it may lead to fallacious observations. For example, while evaluating the answer scripts if the examiner thinks that he is evaluating the scripts of brilliant students then the mistakes present in the answer script may be overlooked.  A prejudiced mind cannot make observation neutral. If a person is biased, then his observation  will not be true or objective. Joyce has pointed out that very often observations are not free from subjective influences. There can be three types of subjective influences of the observer, namely, intellectual, physical and moral. a) The intellectual condition refers to the interest and sincerity of the observer for knowing. If there is no desire to know something then careful and objective observation may not take place. Because of this condition we make a distinction between intentional observation and baseless observations. A sound mind of the observer helps in satisfying this condition.   b) The sense organs of the observer should not be defective. In such cases the observations will lead to fallacious observations. Moreover, our sense organs have limited ability of perceiving the things. The germs are not visible to naked eyes. Many stars and planets are not visible to us. A colour  blind man cannot observe colours perfectly. In such cases if the proper instruments are not used erroneous observations take place. Hence the physical condition should be satisfied for true and unbiased observations. c) The third condition is moral one. It is obvious that for impartial observation there should not  be any dogma or bias. Thus for impartial observation the observer should be free from impositions or any influences. Unless one is having a free and impartial mind his observation may not be objective, real and accurate.  v. Observation is the active process of knowing the truth. Knowledge through observation is always active. The involvement of sense organs makes it active. Of course, the experiments are more active as compared to observations. But observations are not passive.  vi. Observations should be simple and direct observations help in knowing the uncontroversial truths. Since the aim of observation is to obtain right knowledge and to establish the material truth of a general proposition it should be simple and direct.
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