Steps to Writing an Observation Paper

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Frequently required in college writing classes, observation papers are a great way for any writer to hone his skills. Not only does an observation paper require you to do just what it says--observe--it also allows you the opportunity to practice writing and editing about anything you have around you. Whether writing an observation paper for a class or for your own personal benefit, there are steps that, if followed, will make the task of writing an observation paper much easier.

1 Observation

To write an observation paper you must first observe. Remember that observation is more than just vision. You should also be observing sounds, smells and sensations that are happening around your observation paper topic. Do more than just observe the pieces. Try to observe the way everything works together, the processes involved and the total gestalt experience.

2 Notes

Concentrate on what is going on, but also take careful notes. A good way to take notes for an observation paper is to write them without looking at the paper. This frees your eyes and senses to continue to observe what you are looking at. Remember that, although your notes have to be readable, you won't be handing them in. Don't worry about making them look perfect. Just make your notes as complete as possible.

3 Introduction

Begin your paper with an introduction of the subject. Talk about what you observed, where you observed it, when you observed it, why you chose the subject and any other information you can think to include. The introduction should set up the topic, giving the reader an overview of the subject of your observation and its context.

4 Body

The body of your observation paper is the meat of your observations. Arrange your observation notes into a cohesive narrative. Begin at the beginning, but also make sure to tie related observations together. Your observation narrative should be linear and written in the present tense. Be as detailed as possible and remain objective. Make the reader feel like he was present in the moments that you experienced.

5 Summary

Conclude your paper with a summary of what you saw. But also draw some conclusions about what you think about your observation. Explain what your observations mean to you and what they might mean to the reader. Tie everything together in a succinct paragraph.

6 Editing

Edit your paper carefully. You should edit for content, grammar, clarity and spelling. Making sure that you have not repeated yourself is of particular importance when writing an observation paper. Read the paper over very carefully three or four times. Make sure that the paper makes sense and clearly expresses what you are trying to say.

Nicholas Pell began writing professionally in 1995. His features on arts, culture, personal finance and technology have appeared in publications such as "LA Weekly," Salon and Business Insider. Pell holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.