Observation – Alessia Grassi

Coming into this I wasn’t sure how helpful it would be, I’ve already done a lot of research into research and this is one of the methodologies I have particularly focused on. But with it being the main research method I have been using I was hoping to get even more insight into observational research from PhD student Alessia Grassi; and she didn’t disappoint. 


One of the first points she touched upon is that observation cannot be done just once. It is an iterative process which must be interpreted, then analysed, then done again.


It can be structured to give quantitive data but through participation it can also be qualitative. The beauty of recording observations is that the then allow the study to be both participatory/qualitative  and later analysed to be quantitative which means that video can be primary and secondary – participate and observe.


She went on to talk about ethnography and how the ethnographer needs to participate in the observation. She told us that it is best to use a natural (to the subject/activity) setting but went on to add that the ethnographer should watch, observe and talk. The talk being a discussion with the participants to get their views on the situation.

Some key elements Alessia pointed out were:

  • Live in context for extended period
  • Fully engage
  • Use normal conversation as interview technique
  • Keep records
  • Use tacit and explicit information in both analysis and writeup


She talked about the reasons for being a participant, observer or both and how these are utilised in research and she touched on the ethics of not letting people know you are a researcher. This is or can be important as it may bear on what they reveal.


One of the downsides of observation is that OBSERVATION IS TIME CONSUMING! There is the travel, time spent on location and afterwards there is the analysis and write up to do.


Why use observation?

  • Makes it possible to use different capture methods
  • Because over time you get a more accurate view of how people are acting
  • Helps develop further questions such as happened when I held the focus group
  • It can yield a deeper and broader understanding
  • Sometimes, it might be the only way


One last point was on the importance of how you take notes and then write them up for consumption. After this there was some further discussion before we were released into the savage jungle, red of tooth and claw, that is Huddersfield. We suffered through drinks at Costa and put into practice some of what we had learned from Alessia before heading back and reporting on what we had seen. 


So, nothing majorly new from what I have already read but good to have it from another perspective as always.