The Observation Method in Qualitative Research

The observation of phenomena is the core of the entire scientific procedure. It is the
fundamental criterion of knowledge, the first condition for the development of knowledge in the
social sciences. But although observation has been around for a long time in the history of
science, it was only the subject of more advanced methodologies centuries later.
This technique can also be called participant observation, direct observation or
observation in situ. It sits alongside other techniques such as interviews, life stories and
documentary research.

It means “the activity of a researcher who personally observes situations
and behaviors in which they are interested, without reducing themselves to knowing them only
through the categories used by those who live in those situations” (JACCOUD & MEYER,
2008, p. 255). Its main characteristics are: direct technique; non-directed observation;
qualitative analysis; it does not situate constituted facts, but “collective actions and social
processes that can be partly apprehended through direct interactions, whose meaning is not
determined in advance” (JACCOUD & MEYER, 2008, p. 255).

In the field of qualitative research, observation aims to help the researcher understand
and describe phenomena. These phenomena can be events or social interactions, for example. In
short, observation is an important data technique in qualitative research, as it helps the
researcher to understand social phenomena.

JACCOUD, M.; MEYER, R. A observação direta e a pesquisa qualitativa. In:
POUPART, Jean et al. A pesquisa qualitativa: enfoques epistemológicos e metodológicos.
Petrópolis, RJ: Editora Vozes, 2008. p. 254-294.

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