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What Is It?

Observation and insights is a simple research technique that can help you to better understand users and contexts that you are working on in your convening question.


It can give relatively quick contextual information, however, note that the insights generated rely entirely on understanding your own positionality and bias and how that is influencing what you observe and how you interpret it.

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When Is It Used?

  • To perform user research.

  • To look beyond obvious activity and behaviour to see the unusual.

  • To make our assumptions and values explicit.

How Is It Used

Observe what you see and hear - just the facts - and write them down immediately without overthinking. Observe real people in action in a relevant environment and context. Record what you see and hear. Be objective and try to stay out of the situation that you are observing. Sit still and don’t do anything but watch. Keep yourself safe and be respectful. If you are interested in observing people, a place, or interactions that are in a place that you don’t feel comfortable or safe, or in a place where your positionality would make this approach disrespectful, consider asking someone appropriate to come along with you, or choose a different setting to observe.


  • patterns

  • repeated behaviours or actions

  • unusual or extreme actions; outliers

  • inconsistencies (i.e. what is said vs. what is done)

  • work-arounds, modifications to the environment or situation

  • passion, energy, high activity

  • the nature and quality of interactions

  • nature of the physical environment or space


How Is It Used

What insights or interpretations might you draw from your factual observations? Filter your observations with interpretation and judgement, noticing how your positionality, biases, and perspectives are influencing your interpretation and where there may be other ways of interpreting a situation if different points of view are held. Look for insights that are authentic, non-obvious, and revealing.

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