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Observational Study Vs Experiment: The Main Point and Differences

13 August 2019

When you deal with a research paper, you must be well aware of the most effective and far-reaching research methods and tools. Moreover, a proper analysis is an essential element of every research paper nowadays. Therefore, since the analysis is aimed at gathering evidence and providing findings, there are two main kinds of research studies. Furthermore, the evidence collecting work, one of the main stages of a proper analysis, can be quite beneficial when you know how and where to look for evidence. The observational and experimental studies are the two most effective types of research study, which are often used by researchers and professional writers. The main aim of both research studies is the same – to gather more relevant evidence to support main arguments. In the same time, the mentioned types of studies differ by the methods and the latest tools used.

The Observational Study Definition and Explanation

An observational study is the one where researchers check and monitor the risk factors, tests, and treatments, but do nothing to change it. The main idea of the method is to observe and gather enough statistics to further come up with the resolutions. In fact, the gathered information and data allow creating trends that show the character of the development of the mentioned factors. Researchers mostly deal with statistics when preparing an observation study. In the same time, they work to check and monitor behaviors and outcomes. Also, they tend to find the answer to the question of how the behaviors influence the outcome.

When the researchers deal with a disease analysis, they use the information gathered within an observational study to find the associations between definite behaviors and the development of the analyzed disease. Moreover, they can find enough evidence of the cause-effect relationships within a research process. In the same time, an observational study does not bring enough evidence to let the researchers come up with final outcomes proven by data and measurements. In general, evidence can be quite weak. Therefore, the researchers use another kind of study – an experimental study, to find the cause of a problem and prove the relationship between the cause-factor and outcomes.

Types of Observational Study

Observational studies are aimed at delivering statistics and important data that can be used by researchers to come up with important theories and ideas. These vital data can be gathered in different ways. Therefore, the researchers define and use four main types of observational studies.

  • Cohort Study
    A cohort study is a type of observational study that is based on an analysis of a certain cohort. In fact, the cohort is an analyzed group of people that has connections to the problem analyzed. The researchers check the effect of an analyzed problem (i.e., a disease) on a certain group of people. They discover the kind of effect it provides and the people’s responses. Therefore, they distinguish the way the disease influence different people, thus they can find a needed correlation and evidence of the disease influence.
  • Case-Control Study
    The case-control study is focused on the analysis of a person with a certain problem (disease) in comparison with a group of people who have no similar problems. The investigators compare the data and come up with various theoretical theories. This type of study is the most often used when the researchers deal with a single case of a disease. Also, the case-control study is used when you need to check some harmful situation and its causes. For example, the harmful conditions in the workplace and their influence on the workers.
  • Prospective Observational Study
    This type of observational study is based on the analysis of a certain disease’ development during a period of time. Further, the information about the disease is analyzed due to additional factors like suspected risk and protection factors. In fact, this study uses a cohort model, thus analyzes a group of people that has a connection to the problem within a certain period of time. The researchers check the effect of an analyzed problem (i.e., a disease) on a certain group of people for a long period of time as anticipated. They discover the kind of effect it provides and the group’s members’ responses. Hence, they can figure out the way the disease influences different groups of people.
  • Retrospective Observational Study
    A retrospective study is focused on the analysis of a certain problem (disease) starting from a certain point. Therefore, the researchers check a group of people in relation to the risk factors they have been exposed to within a period of time. They compare the data at the begetting of the study and the outcomes. This type of study is the most frequently used when the researchers deal with numerous case-control studies. Correspondingly, the retrospective study is mostly used when you need to check and estimate relative risks.

Define Observational Study

When you want to answer the question of what is an observational study, first you need to understand why it is used by researchers. In fact, observational studies are the best tools to gather some statistics about the main problem, factors that influence it, and possible outcomes. In the same time, while an observational study allows finding and monitoring certain associations between factors, it does not allow checking the exact effect of one factor on another. Therefore, observational study is a statistic that allows creating some ideas about the problem (i.e., a disease) and the ways it was influenced by the main factors. Still, it does not let the researchers prove the existed theories and suspicions.

Nevertheless, the observational study statistics is certainly valuable data that are widely used by researchers, media, and governments to explain some event or phenomenon. The observational study can bring the only available information when an experimental study cannot be used. Moreover, the case-control study is the most popular type of research when you are dealing with certain cases of a disease or an analysis of harmful conditions and its reasons.

Example of Observational Study

Various types of an observational study can be conducted in the cases when you need to deal with a certain disease (a single case) or harmful situations/conditions. In the mentioned cases of observational study examples, this type of research is the most beneficial and can reveal the reasons and outcomes of the situations that occurred. Still, the results of an observational study can be explained in different ways since they provide no proves, but mostly remain a theory.

For example, in the case with an observational study about the effects of meditation on the decrease of heart diseases, the statistics and data can be explained in different ways. Some researchers may find the direct effect of meditation on the improvement of life of people with hearts problems. Other investigators can find the real reason for the health improvement in additional factors like special diets used by people who have heart diseases and meditate regularly.

The Difference Between an Observational Study and an Experiment Is That

When trying to find the differences between observational study vs experiment, it is great to check the definition of experimental study first. An experimental study is an advanced examination and study of effects. The main characteristic of the experimental study is its randomized character. Thus subjects are always grouped by chance. The researchers discover and monitor the effect of an analyzed subject (medicine, drug, etc.) on a certain group of people and compare it with the results of another group who was facing no intervention. The results are collected and further analyzed by the researchers in order to come up with findings. The differences in outcomes are used to provide a theory proven by evidence.

The Differences Between Observational and Experiment Studies

Both observational and experimental studies have something in common and numerous differences as well. Moreover, every research method has its strengths and weaknesses. The main differences between the two types of studies are often caused by a certain reason.

  • The Situation for A Study Conduction
    There can be different situations where evidence collecting is requested. For instance, when talking about an observational study, it is often used when there is a need to check the effect of some harmful situation or conditions on a definite group of people. In such a case, an observational study is the most beneficial. For example, the harmful conditions on the work and their influence on the workers. This type of study is the most widely used when the researchers deal with a single case of disease as well.
  • Data Interpretation and Usage
    In the case of an observational study, the statistics and data gathered can be explained in different ways that bring both benefits and problems. Since this type of research allows explaining data in different ways, numerous researchers can use the findings differently. In the same time, an experimental study gives proper outcomes, which has strong evidence and solid explanations.
  • The Way the Results Are Used
    An observation study’s results are always open to dispute. Often, the researchers need solid evidence to prove their own theories. Therefore, they use the findings gathered within an experimental study.
  • The Cost of the Study
    An experimental study is named one of the most effective and results’ carrying types of research work. It brings solid findings and evidence. In the same time, it is quite an expensive kind of research work and requires great budgets.
  • The Time Needed for a Study
    An experimental study can be scheduled for a long period of time. Sometimes, many diseases’ investigations and research works can be scheduled for 2-5 years or more. Therefore, it takes both a lot of time and money to come up with findings. In the same time, observational studies are even longer than the experimental ones.

Observational Study Vs Experiment

The observational studies are cheaper than experimental ones and can take as much time as needed. Still, the results of observational studies can have various explanations since they rely on self-reported data. An experimental study provides solid evidence and proven theories. These studies are better controlled and monitored, and allow using randomization, thus assure dealing with unknown factors. There are four main types of observational studies that can be used by researchers and investigators. The retrospective, prospective, cohort study, and case-control study are the main kinds of observational studies that bring various benefits for researchers. The observational study allows conducting a huge investigation of a certain problem (disease) asking for smaller budgets that an experimental study. The most important thing for researchers and modern investigators is to know what they are looking for in advance and choose the most beneficial type of research that matches their sphere of study and an analyzed subject.

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