Observations are a type of primary research that involves spending time watching people or other creatures interact with each other and the world around them. Observations are used in nearly every field and can be incredibly useful in gathering information.
Types of Participation
Before observing, consider how you as an observer may alter the event being observed.
·How fully will you participate in the event?
·Will you simply sit, watch, and take notes with no interaction?
·Will you interact with the participants?
·Will you become a participant yourself?
These different choices can radically change what you end up observing. The mere presence of an observer may alter the events–and if you interact with participants, you further risk changing what takes place. The other side to this is that by not participating in an event, you may not gain a complete understanding of that event.
How to Observe
When observing, it is especially important to separate observations from your feelings or reactions to observations. A good way to do this is to take your observations in a double-entry notebook. A double-entry notebook has two columns, one for what is directly observed and one is for what the observer interprets from the events. Here is an example: Observation: The teacher walks around the circle and speaks to each student individually. Interpretation: The teacher seems to want to make sure that each student understands the assignment. If you are observing a group that is not found in public (such as a group of card players, a sports team, or a special-interest group), it may be wise to plan to spend multiple sittings with the group. This will allow the group some time to adjust to your presence (and hence, for you to get more accurate observations).
Recordings vs. Note-taking
How will you be observing? Will you be taking notes in a notebook? With a laptop? Will you be recording your observations in some way (with a digital camera, video camera, digital recorder, etc? How you choose to observe is another important consideration that can affect the quality and results of your observations. Remember that you cannot capture everything that takes place with a recording or by even by taking detailed notes.
What to Observe
Observational skills require some practice! The key to being a good observer is to pay attention to the details of a situation, write as much as you can, and write it as detailed as possible. Before you observe, you should consider how you will focus your observations–because you can’t focus on everything! Research is required for this essay. Read the sample observational essays and note how the students integrated research into their work. source: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/559/07/
Write an observational essay about an intriguing place, person, or activity in your community. Your essay may be a brief profile of an individual based on one or two interviews: a description of a place or activity observed once or twice; or a longer, more fully developed profile of a person, place, or activity based on observational visits and interviews conducted over several days. Observe your subject closely, and then present what you have learnedin a way that both informs and engages readers. Use lots of description. Possible topicideas for observation (see your text for more ideas): -a church or temple (interview the minister/members)
-a classroom (interview teacher/students)
-a popular hangout
-any place that’s different or gets you outside of your comfort zone
-a ride along with an officer
-an AA meeting
-shelter for abused women with children