Observation is a data collection method that involves observing people, events or processes. Observations can be direct, where the observer watches behaviours and processes as they are occurring or indirect, where the observer notes the results of a behaviour or process. Observation can be a valuable data collection method when you are trying to understand a process (e.g. STI testing clinic processes), a place (e.g. community – see the transect walk method), or interactions or behaviours between people (e.g. interactions at a peer-support group). It can be useful when collecting data directly from individuals is not a feasible option. The observer should be trained to undertake observations to reduce observer bias.
Evaluation Brief: Observation
The Centres for Disease Control and Protection has developed a resource called Data Collection Methods for Program Evaluation: Observation. This resource provides a basic overview of observation; when to use it; how to plan and conduct it; and its advantages and disadvantages.