Observation is an information-gathering technique based on personal or recorded observation, through systematic documentation, of visible social activity and behavior. Observation techniques sometimes require participation in activities with the subjects being studied, which is called participant observation.
Observing what is happening in and around an MPA provides managers with factual data and qualitative information as it is occurring. This gives managers a better understanding of who and what the users and uses are in any given area to help them make better and more informed management decisions.
Provides an objective view of social group dynamics and behaviors in different settings
Captures actions as they are actually occurring within their social context
Can adapt to events as they occur
Not all activities or behaviors can be observed
Can be difficult to interpret seen behaviors
Can influence behaviors of program participants
Minimal expertise is needed to conduct basic observation research. However, some initial training is needed to conduct systematic observations. Additional skill is required to obtain accurate qualitative results.
Related Tools and Methods
Observational Field Research
This Web page from Cornell University is designed as an introduction to the basic issues and design options in observational research within natural settings.
Steps and Methods Used in Qualitative Observational Research
Colorado State University provides detailed steps for observational research and its various methods on this Web site. A section on using computer software is also included.