What Is a Time Sampling Observation?

A time sampling observation is a data collection method that records the number of times a specific behavior was noticed within a set period of time. It has many applications and is a common research method within the fields of education and psychology.

Time sampling is used to gain a clear understanding of typical behavior. Depending upon the purpose of the study, the researcher monitors the behavior of an individual or a group. Within a predetermined interval, the researcher records the number of times a behavior is observed. To be certain that the information collected is an accurate representation, data is collected over many intervals. For example, a preschool researcher notes the number of aggressive physical interactions within a particular playgroup during 5-minute intervals.