Observational writing can be applied to many fields and subjects. You may find it working its way into general writing courses as well as disciplines that require some form of qualitative research. In essence, observational writing is a form of 'direct investigation' as it looks to analyze the precise details of an event, person, area, situation, concept, or phenomena.
In other words, observational writing attempts to provide the reader with a sensory experience that allows them to see the subject 'as if they themselves were present.' In addition, it also works to bring a new and crisp interpretation to light (for instance, taking a common occurrence, such as animals in their habitat and presenting it in an unexpected or alternative manner).
Different forms of observation
There are many reasons to conduct an observation. To begin, a distinction should be made between observations that are done to compile information and the observations that are done to formulate an observational essay. In some cases a writer of a fictional story, poet, or even a news article writer may decide to include some brief observations in their writing as means of adding interest to the piece or in some cases providing necessary evidence to prove a particular point. Likewise, a researcher, with a topic in psychology, may also include some bits of observation in the midst of conducting qualitative research. All of these examples fall under observations done to collect or compile information or data.
The observational essay, on the other hand, is an essay entirely devoted to a particular observation of a person, place, event or object (rather than being one component of a larger project such as a research paper or news article). This type of writing follows its own set of guidelines and formatting.
Generally an observational essay will;
- Place the author as an outside observer
- Make a 'fresh' or new observation of the subject
- Include sensory details
- If an event provide the details of it step-by-step
- Be more than a compilation of notes, but engaging and interesting to read as well
- Provide some insight into the subject and or reflection on what has been observed
Though all of these descriptions may not apply to every observational essay, they are a general guideline of what to expect when reading or preparing this form of writing.
Writing the observational essay
Step #1-What should you write about?
A suitable topic for an observational essay can range from a kid's playground in your local neighborhood to a colony of bees enjoying the morning sun; despite the selection, it's important to choose a subject that you are comfortable writing about and can see yourself having easy access to (without being overly involved or interfering with the subject).
For instance, with the example of a kid's playground, if you go to the playground with your own child or a friend's child you know that you will have an impact on that environment. And the same can be said for a bee colony-your mere presence may disrupt the activity of the bees present and therefore influence the results of the observation. Which leads us to the second step; choosing whether or not to be an outside observer (spectator) or an active participant in your observation.
Step #2-What is your role?
In most cases writers may find being a spectator as the most comfortable role to take on for the observational essay. This may be for several reason; one being, that as an observer you really get to concentrate on taking detailed notes at the moment, rather than recalling information later on (as would likely be the case if you were a participant). Though writing as a participant as well may occur in many situations where the choice is really unavoidable. For instance, if you wanted to write an observational piece on your brother's graduation or something of this nature, it would really be difficult to not get involved. Similarly. in some cases even if you have the option of being only a spectator, you must also factor in the possible influence you may have on the environment, event, or person being studied.
Step #3 Observe and take detailed notes
This is obviously one of the most important steps for this particular essay (as your notes are your paper for the most part). Its important to consider several factors when taking detailed notes, some of them include; mood, feeling, and sensory details such as smell and sound. Also the importance of providing clear and precise visual descriptions to make the reader 'feel as if' they were experiencing the event or observing the subject as you are observing is heavily stressed. *The exact order in which things occurred is also important when observing an event taking place.
Step #4 Reflect on your notes, elaborate, and organize
Reflection in some form usually has its place in an observational essay whereas reactions may or may not be included. The difference is that reactions may be limited to specific feelings and thoughts as it relates to something in particular that was observed, whereas reflections are generally more planned and poised in their presentations. Your reflections for instance, may look at the 'bigger picture' or connect what occurred (or what was observed) to larger concepts or ideas.
Secondly, elaborating on your notes is a good way to really get your paper started. Elaboration may simply include adding in a few questions that you may want to explore, or providing more details to an already existing description. You may decide to focus on your most memorable point of observation and provide a lengthy explanation of that and so on. Also at this point you should begin organizing your information; identify a few specific organizational structures, test them out, and see how each will work out for your essay.
*Depending on the subject that is being observed, you may decide to describe the information in (a) the order that it occurred, (b) according to what you consider to be the most relevant or important issue, or you may decide to even (c) organize it in the form of a narrative. One of the biggest issues that will influence your organizational structure is mainly the subject that you've examined and the audience that you are preparing the essay for (Think-which structure will work best for them?).
Step #6 Start your first draft!
Now that you've done all the work and laid out all of the necessary information, you can begin to formulate your first draft. You may find it beneficial to also design an informal outline prior to writing your first draft, though this is not always necessary. Likewise, depending on how well you took to elaborating on your notes, much of your first draft should already be in motion. The only other issues that may need to be addressed are how you will unify the different items observed, transition paragraphs and constructing a sound and engaging introduction to grab your reader's attention as well as set the tone for your essay.
Last time it was discussed how to write about success and today we are going to talk about writing an observation essay. Either in high school or a college, students are frequently assigned to compose observation essays. Accordingly with the name, observational essay deals with observing some object, idea or event and subsequently describing it. Depending on the subject it can be naturalistic observation essay, teacher observation essay, etc. In this post along with learning about observation essay writing rules we will also discuss some observation essay topic ideas. While working on your paper you might find these writing advices to be helpful, but don’t get frustrated if right now you are too busy to write. Our talented writers are happy to offer you their help with writing and editing. You can get your essay ready for you in a very quick and easy way by simply clicking this “order now” button.
What an observation essay is
As its name suggests writing an observation essay requires you to observe closely some object (human or animal), idea or event. You have to be able to witness personally the object of your research in order to notice every little detail and nuance of its behavior or characteristics. While conducting your observation you need to pay very close attention to your object and take careful notes. This is one of the descriptive essay types and is meant to show how well you can conduct the observation and make conclusions regarding what you observed.
Tips on writing an observational essay
As any other type of essay, observational one has its features, which arise from specific nature of this paper. While dealing with observation this essay requires close attention to details and application of sensory information. Let us look at these features, which include:
- Choosing a right topic. Since observational essay expects from you actual observation of your subject, it is better if you choose something you can get to see for your own eyes. It can be a person or a group of people, animals, places, events or inanimate objects. It does not have to be anyone famous or in some way exceptional. It can be your relative, a cashier from a local supermarket or a neighbor’s child playing with his dog. Your purpose is not to prove how outstanding your object is but to describe them and their behavior in the most vivid way; to show what an attentive observer you are;
- Applying vivid sensory details. The observation writing is all about details. And it is the best when these details are vivid. Using your five senses will help you to make the information about your subject to come alive on the paper. Tell your reader how it looked, what it felt like, smelled, sounded, tasted. Of course it may not be possible to apply all of the five senses to some subjects, but try to use as many as possible. Try to be creative, ask yourself the following questions about your subject and write down the answers. What it made you think of? Which associations came into your mind? What was the mood of the place? How did it make you feel? What was the most memorable about the object you observed? What was your first impression? Which conclusion can you draw after observing it?
- Writing in the present tense. This is rather a rule than a creative tip, but your essay will only benefit if you use it. Writing in a present tense will create in the reader’s mind an image of an event you describe unfolding right in front of their eyes at that very moment. It is best if you can find time to observe your subject but it is also possible writing from your memory about something you witnesses in the past. But nevertheless you will still have to use the present tense and apply vivid details;
- Using precise language. The point of observational essay is to give the most precise description of an object or event. There is an exact word for any object, act or feature you can possibly imagine. Don’t say that something smelled bad. Find a precise word that would describe that smell the way reader will almost be able to smell it while reading your essay. Say it smelled rotten, infected, moldy, overripe or sour. It is a perfect moment to start using a thesaurus.
Observation essay topic ideas
While it is clear how you should conduct your observation and compose an essay, it can still be confusing what topic to choose. Ultimately there is endless number of subjects you can write about. You can write about anything you can observe, wherever your creativity takes you, from a house fly to a presidential speech. Read this free narrative essay, which might inspire you with some ideas for a topic. But if you still feel lost in this sea of possibilities here are some more definite suggestions:
- A person or a group of people. It is the most common subject for an observation essay, because people are interesting to watch and easy to find. As it was mentioned before it does not have to be a famous or an outstanding person. It can be an old man feeding pidgins with bread crumbs or a young couple in a café. The real talent of a writer is not in describing something unusual but in being able to discover something special and unusual in the simplest routine things;
- Performance. This can be a theater performance where you can observe the audience as well as the actors; a speech; an art exhibition. It can be any sort of event like a concert or other public meeting. The advantage of such topic is that you can describe not only the event itself but the people reaction toward it;
- Tradition. It is a very interesting topic that would require your presence or even participation in some traditional event. It can be a family tradition or tradition of some other culture. For example, despite belonging to the same culture, every family has their own way of celebrating New Year, Easter or birthdays. Some families make barbeque while others jump with parachutes. All this can serve as a great material for your observation essay;
- Nature. It is somewhat challenging topic because it requires very close attention to the slightest details and patience, since you might need a really long time to observe some change. The topic of nature can include any animals — fish, mammals, birds — or even plants, mountains, rivers. Choosing nature for your subject can be complicated and very rewarding at the same time.
Writing an observational essay requires you to pay special attention to details. Any person, object or event can become a subject of your essay. We learned that this type of paper has some specific features like using vivid sensory details, precise language and writing in the present tense. What would you choose to write about in an observation essay, about a person or an event? Share your topic ideas with us here. It is also very possible that you have no time to write an essay, not to mention conducting the observation. In this case we are happy to offer you our essay writing services, which you can read about in more detail here. Both our customer support and prices are very friendly, try them out for yourself.