Observational Research

Tue, Dec 9, 2008

Strategy and Execution

Observational Research is the process of watching people in context — in their natural environment, doing routine activities.

The major tool of Observational Research is videotaping. With Observational Research, depending on the goals and needs of the study, researchers can gather anywhere from ten to hundreds of hours of documented observations.

Researchers then work together to systematically analyze and interpret the gathered data.

The goal of observational research is to capture the embodied knowledge – tacit, nonscientific knowledge – the type of findings that cannot be uncovered in surveys and focus groups. To that end, researchers can pay attention to minute details that can often be overlooked.


* The data gathered is not mediated by the subject.
* Results are not defined by the design of the method.
* The results are supported by verifiable evidence.
* Research is done in context.
* Uncovers embodied knowledge.
* Uncovers problems for which the subjects have developed workarounds.
* Uncovers problems and behaviors that people didn’t know they had.


* More costly.
* Difficult to do and administer.
* Time-consuming.
* Uses very small study groups.
* Results are more subjective.

At A2X Consulting, we have technology and experience that mitigate the risk and allows us to use this method to generate actionable insight.

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