Simple and inexpensive, observation is an great way to learn more about how your users make use of a space. Be sure to consider the following when planning your observations study.
- With a small research team determine the primary questions that will be the focus of your observation.
- Develop an observation schedule that will allow you to capture data at different times of the day, week, and the semester (or other time patterns relevant to your project).
- You may wish to develop an observation template that helps you capture data for different sites / locations. This example might be inspiring!
- Observational data can be captured in a variety of formats from textual descriptions to coded marking of template or drawings of a space. A combination of data capture techniques will gather the most information.
- You may create a coding scheme that can be used by different observers to document behaviors and uses of tools, technologies, and spaces. For example, you might use “C” for “on computer” and “L” for “on laptop.”
- Taking photos of a space can capture additional valuable information.
- IRB approval is necessary when working with human subjects. Work with your institution to apply for the appropriate IRB exemptions and/or approval before working with any participants.