12 tips for observing as a method of research

Observation is a method of finding out and recording actual behavior. You choose the observation method to determine how activities, programs, or projects are received and when you want to register spontaneous reactions. While observing, you make an objective report of what you see; there is no direct contact with the respondents. I give you some tips on how to observe effectively:

1. When observing, use an observation list. With a structured observation list, you consistently record objective information, and you can quickly analyze the collected data.

2. While observing, show an open and inquisitive attitude. Avoid jumping to conclusions about behaviors. Make an objective report of what you see.

3. Name or record what you actually see happening, not what you think is happening.

4. Don't just look at random gestures. A loose gesticulation doesn't say much. Its meaning becomes understandable only when combined with other gestures and signals.

5. Depending on the situation, make it known that you will observe people, for example, if you will follow them during the activity.

6. Combine observations with a (short) interview to indicate what you have seen.

7. By making many observations, you can make representative statements about your research topic or group with supporting figures.

8. The observers should be given clear instructions so that everyone records the observed in the same way and that interpretation of observation is avoided. To make different observers equal, you can do the first observations together.

9. When observing, you can use all kinds of technical aids. There are various tracking devices on the market, but you can also consider a stopwatch to help you measure how long someone is using something.

10. Always observe and consider the circumstances. If someone is standing in a cold room with their arms tightly crossed, chances are they are not defensive and closed, but simply cold.

11. Make a schedule of when to observe in advance and do so at different times under different conditions so that the picture you get is as varied and complete as possible.

12. Disrupt the situation you are observing as little as possible. Thus, do not talk to those being observed and be as inconspicuous as possible.