What Is “structured Observation”?

Chase Elliott Clark/CC-BY 2.0

In the social sciences such as psychology and sociology, “structured observation” is a method of data and information collecting. Through the structured observation method, social scientists are able to look selectively at the social phenomena they are attempting to study. For this reason, structured observation is a popular method of conducting an experiment or observing a phenomenon for the explicit purpose of testing a specific hypothesis.

According to the University of Strathclyde, when conducting research in psychology and sociology, there are a number of different ways to go about gleaning information. One such way that is able to focus primarily on a given phenomena is structured observation. This requires that there are clearly laid-out goals and plans for these observations before the observation begins. Otherwise, it may not be possible to focus selectively on any one given phenomenon. This method of research uses smaller, predetermined and more manageable pieces of information that have been obtained through the use of quantitative techniques.

There are varying levels of “structure” that these observations can be classified under. Highly structured observations have precise and exclusive ways to observe and break up information. By contrast, semi-structured observations do not have this level of control over what is being observed in the experiment.