Creating an Observation Checklist

The goal for this post is to create an observation checklist for a project that I will be performing in the future. What is an observation checklist? This is a checklist of things i will look for as I observe participants in my study. Observation checklists are used as a record keeping device and to define what things you will look for as you study your participants. You cannot go into an experiment and just jot things down that you see. For a legitimate study, you must define the variable that you are looking to observe and the check them off and expand on them with your observation checklist.

First, let me explain the study that I will be performing. In my study, titled “Social Roles in a Social Group”, I will be observing a group of friends in a natural habitat and how they interact. During this observation, I will determine who is the leader in the group, as well as other roles in a social setting. After the observation and going through my checklist, I will interview each of my participants, starting with the one who I found the be the “beta” role and work my way the participant I presume to be the leader. During the interviews, I will ask each member to choose the roles they consider themselves from a list of defined roles that I have created and to assign roles to each of their friends as well. The goal to this research is to see how people identify social roles and to see if people can accurately identify what roles they themselves fall under.

An example of an observation checklist

So let’s create a checklist:

In order to begin,¬†we need to ask, ” What do we need to know?” Well we want to identify the strongest candidate for the Leadership Social Role. So now we need to decide what qualities make up the Leadership Social Role. I think that a leader makes decisions for the group. The leader is someone who people seek approval from. The leader is also addressed more than any other role, while talking more than some other roles.

So knowing these things we will create the start of the checklist:

Makes decisions for the group

Leads topic of conversation

Amount of times directly addressed

This is a start of our checklist. This is how we will determine who we think the leader is. Using these checks, and more that we will add to the checklist, we can make our assumption for who the leader is. We will also do this for the other roles of the group.

For the Beta Social Role, we will ask ourselves what qualities are found in the Beta Social Role. In this role, the participant will not create new topics for conversation, will not make decisions for the group, and will participate in conversation mostly when directly addressed. We will not have many questions for this role, but will use other questions and rank the participants in order from most addressed to least. The least addressed will help us determine who is in the Beta Social Role.

The checklist is tedious and requires a lot of thought, but it is necessary when using the observation as a research tool. These findings will also help us create interview questions for out participants. We will ask each participant who they consider the leader of the social group. Then we will ask them to assign roles to each of the other participants in their group. Using this new information, we can compare it to our observations and define what qualities are in each role and if we only see the positive roles in ourselves.