Field Observation

Field Observation

Design thinking

What is the Field Observation tool?

Whether observing behaviours in the workplace or out on the streets, this tool provides a place to categorise and cluster notes about what has been observed during this part of a research process.

Why is it useful?

There can be huge benefits to carrying out field observations as a team, because different people naturally spot different patterns and behaviours. There can be a downside to this if the team haven’t aligned on a brief, and haven’t agreed on a standard way of recording their notes. This tool gives a team a framework to go out with, and a clear method to work with during analysis.

How to use it

Brief everybody in the team around the four areas they are to prioritise capturing notes on: ‘Workarounds/Adaptations’, ‘Emotions’, ‘Surprises’, and ‘What people care about’. Ensure the team have noted these areas down in the same place they’ll be taking notes during observation.

Once field observation has wrapped out, bring everybody together to transfer their notes onto stickies, and bring them onto the board.


  • What the four categories of observation mean will depend on the nature of your project.
  • Consider adding an additional clarification if you feel, for example, that the type of emotions the team are looking out for needs some focus.
  • Be descriptive when capturing observations.
  • Focus on describing facts when capturing observations, avoid judgement or interpretation.