Structured observation is a research method that involves systematically observing and documenting behavior, actions, or events in a controlled and predetermined manner. It involves the use of specific predefined categories or a checklist to categorize and record observations.

Characteristics of Structured Observation

Structured observation typically possesses the following characteristics:

  • Systematic: It follows a predetermined plan and method to observe and record the desired behaviors or events.
  • Controlled: The observation takes place in a controlled environment or under defined conditions.
  • Objective: The observer’s presence and involvement do not influence the behavior or events being observed, ensuring objectivity.
  • Categorization: Observations are categorized and recorded based on specific predetermined criteria or a checklist.
  • Quantifiable: The recorded observations allow for numerical analysis and statistical treatment.


The process of structured observation typically involves the following steps:

  1. Defining the focus: Clearly defining the research question or objective and identifying the behaviors or events to be observed.
  2. Developing the observation tool: Creating a checklist, coding scheme, or predefined categories to record the observations.
  3. Selecting and training observers: Choosing individuals who will conduct the observations and providing them with detailed instructions and training on how to use the observation tool.
  4. Conducting the observation: Observers systematically and objectively record the identified behaviors or events according to the predefined categories or checklist.
  5. Analyzing the data: The recorded observations are then quantitatively and/or qualitatively analyzed to draw conclusions and make interpretations.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Structured Observation


  • Allows for direct and firsthand observation of behavior or events.
  • Enables standardized data collection, facilitating comparisons and replication.
  • Provides quantitative data that can be analyzed statistically.
  • Reduces the potential for observer bias by employing predefined categories or checklists.


  • May overlook important behaviors or events not included in the predefined categories.
  • Can be time-consuming and resource-intensive, particularly if multiple observers are needed.
  • May lack ecological validity due to the controlled nature of the observation setting.
  • Observer presence might influence the natural behavior of the individuals being observed.