Difference Between Observational Study and Experiments (With Table)

The collection of data varies in different types and kinds of studies. In some studies, it is done spatially, whereas, in other studies, it is done statically. In some studies, the researcher needs to do some experiments to derive a conclusion. Whereas in other studies, no experiments are required. Hence, we will discuss Observational studies and experiments in this article and how they differ from each other.

Observational Study vs Experiments

The difference between Observational study and experiments is that observations are counted in the case of observational study. Whereas in the case of experimental study or also called experiments, more importance is given to the conduction of experiments. The observational study generally abstains from indulging in human intervention. On the contrary to the observational study, experiments generally include human intervention.

The study in which observations are counted is called an observational study. It is the way the observations are noted makes it different from another kind of study called an experimental study. The conclusion in an observational study is generally drawn from the observations taken together. Generally, the researcher abstains from conducting any kind of experiment and relies solely on the data collected. This study does not include the intervention of humans.

The study in which more importance is given to the conduction of experiments is called an experimental study. As the name suggests, the conclusion solely depends upon the data collected primarily after the experiments are conducted. However, some or more importance is given to the observations as well. The importance and use of observation in the case of experiments can not be neglected fully. Generally, the data is collected from various studies, and then the observations are done here. The intervention of humans is quite common in this type of study.

Comparison Table Between Observational Study and Experiments

Parameters of ComparisonObservational StudyExperiments
EmphasisObservations are counted.Emphasis is given on experiments.
Drawing the conclusion Emphasis is put on making an observation, and the conclusion is drawn from it.More emphasis is put on experiments and not just observations, and then the conclusion is drawn.
Rely onThe researcher is expected to rely on the collected data.The researcher is expected to observe various things through different studies or websites.
Human interventionDoes not Include Human intervention.Includes Human intervention.
ExampleRelationship between lung cancer and smoking.Hawthorne studies

What is Observational Study?

In the case of an observational study, it is not at all mandatory for the researcher to do any experiments, but he or she just needs to make a list of observations and then can arrive at a conclusion. Observational study abstains itself from conduction of any kind of experiments. Most of the time, the researcher solely relies on the collected information or data records. Here the researcher draws a conclusion based on the statistical data of the past and present and then makes use of it.

Although there are many examples of observational study is there, but we will determine a relationship between the happening of lung cancer in humans and smoking. Thus, data were collected from both those who smoke regularly and those who do not smoke at all. Then the observations were noted down with the help of the statistically collected data from individuals and a whole group. And finally, the conclusion was drawn.

What are Experiments?

In the case of experiments, the researcher must conduct experiments and then draw observations from them. In this type of study, manipulation can be done by the researcher in almost every aspect to conclude. A researcher generally had to give more effort and observes all the facts and figures by going through various materials, websites and studies in order to do thorough research for the conclusion.

Hawthorne studies best sets an example for an experimental study. This particular study was conducted in the Western Electric Company and on the Hawthorne plant. The main purpose of this study was to spot the impact and effect of productivity and illumination. The illumination was amended according to the measurement of productivity. After this, the measurement of productivity was again noted, which later helped the researchers to finally jump to a conclusion.

Main Differences Between Observational Study and Experiments

  1. In Observational Studies, observations are counted. On the other hand, in experiments or experimental studies, more emphasis is given to experiments.
  2. The observational study differs from experiment or experimental study in the way the observations are taken or noted.
  3. In an observational study, the person undergoing the study emphasizes making an observation, and the conclusion is drawn from it. On the contrary, in experiments or experimental studies, more emphasis is on experiments and not just observations.
  4. In an Observational study, experiments are not done, and the researcher has to rely on the collected data. On the other hand, in the case of experiments or experimental study the researcher has to observe various things through different websites or studies.
  5. The observational study does not include human intervention. On the other hand, in the case of experiments, human intervention is quite common.
  6. An example of an observational study includes the relationship between lung cancer and smoking. On the other hand, an example of experiments includes Hawthorne studies.


In research, two important and major types of study are involved. Two of them are observational studies and experiments or experimental studies. They differ from each other solely in the way the observations are drawn. The observational study generally uses the data observed spatially or statistically, or both.

However, in the case of experiments or also known as experimental study, with the noting down of observations, experiments are also done to conclude. As Observational study does not include the conduction of experiments, thus it does not include human force. But experiments include human force to work together and in order to derive a conclusion.


  1. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/0470013192.bsa454
  2. https://www.metheval.uni-jena.de/projekte/symposium2006/material/cook_shadish_and_wong.pdf

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