Observational Studies versus Surveys

The difference between observational studies and surveys on changes to the community environments lies in their approaches to data collection and analysis.

Observational studies…

  • involve directly observing the existing infrastructure changes and/or enhancements in the community
  • document how changes and/or enhancements are implemented
  • measure changes and/or enhancements impact
  • provide a more objective assessment of the actual changes and their effects

In contrast, surveys…

  • involve collecting first-hand perceptions and experiences with the infrastructure changes and/or enhancements
  • rely on recall and subjective responses
  • allow for a larger group of respondents

Observational studies are better suited for assessing the actual implementation and impact of infrastructure changes, while surveys provide insights into community perceptions and experiences.

When should I use an interview format versus a survey format?

There are pros and cons to both interview and survey formats for evaluating the impact of community initiatives.



  • allow for a more in-depth exploration of participants' experiences, thoughts, and feelings and allow for follow-up questions and clarification
  • may provide a richer understanding of the impact and ways to improve the initiative


  • allow for gathering data from more respondents quickly and efficiently
  • are less costly
  • provide an overview of trends and patterns in the community


Interviews can be…

  • time-consuming
  • expensive to conduct
  • may not be representative of the larger population


  • may lack the detail and depth provided by interviews and may not allow participants to express their thoughts and feelings fully

The selection of the appropriate format depends on the evaluation question(s), time frame, available resources, and the community's cultural context. Combining both methods may provide more comprehensive data on the impact of community initiatives.