Ideas for Observational Studies

Nature has many things you can use for your observational studies.

The world is a fascinating place with wonders that can often be overlooked in the hustle of daily life. Making an observational study can bring the world around us into focus. Finding observation project ideas is a relatively simple process. Creating easy observational studies is a matter of plotting your path to prove your hypothesis.

1 Preparing to Study

Approach the observation study with a strong hypothesis that you hope to prove or disprove by studying a certain population. Consider your interests for easy observational studies. Consider conducting the study in a natural setting so that the information that you gather is not muddied or influenced by atypical factors. A true observation study allows the observer to partake of a population, or independent variable, that is in no way influenced by the observer or the observer’s intentions. Prepare to take notes so have a dedicated notebook or electronic device handy at all times during the observation period.

2 Types of Observation Studies

Any observation project ideas that you are considering should be things that are in your daily life or otherwise easily accessible. Naturalistic observation ideas will come to you easily if you take time to look around what you walk past or encounter on a daily basis. If the person or things you are observing do not realize you are studying them, it is called a disguised observation. If the subjects understand that they are part of a study you are conducting, it is called a non-disguised observation.

Structured observations collect data that can easily be organized into distinct categories. A non-structured observation is when the observer is attempting to find everything about a subject and gathering things as they occur to support their hypothesis. A direct observation involves studying the actual behavior during the occurrence. An indirect observation finds information after the occurrence. For instance, you could study what kids eat at lunch. A direct study has the observer watching what kids order at the cafeteria counter. An indirect study has the observer monitoring what was thrown away after the lunch period to discern what kids ate.

3 Observation Project Ideas

There are a few easy observational studies to get a student started in this exciting endeavor. Create a list of naturalistic observation ideas or mechanical observation ideas to pinpoint what interests you the most. Easy observational studies are those that you can conduct within the parameters of your daily life.

If you live in a tall building, a study of the habits of those who ride the elevator can be revealing about human nature. At lunch or recess, observe students and how they interact. Do girls gravitate toward large groups? Do boys tend to play more on the playground equipment than in the field? Naturalistic observation ideas include monitoring ant hills and the behavior of the inhabitants, bird behaviors and diet interests or household pet activities.

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at