How to develop your observational skills

Find a bus stop, lounge area, cafeteria, mall or some other PUBLIC place where you can sit and take notes for a period of at least 2 to 2.5 hours. Observe people interacting there and record these observations in the form of detailed notes. What are the roles being exhibited? What are the norms of behavior? What symbols are most frequent? Least? What aspects of socialization do you see? How are they exhibited?. It will likely require more than one time period to complete your observations. You should plan on a short preliminary observation period to make sure that the setting has enough activity to generate analyzable observations and a second later period in which to do the actual 2 to 2.5 hours of observation. (Airports are an excellent spot for this type of observance).
A key purpose of this assignment is to develop your observational skills. Therefore, you should focus on a particular social behavior, one that you see repeatedly in the setting you have selected. An additional goal is to help you learn to separate observation from interpretation. Write a brief, 2 page research report on your findings. Your report should include:
a description of the setting where the observations occurred
a summary of the key observations made
an analysis of your observations using concepts developed in the text and in class
Your report should demonstrate an awareness of some of the unconscious, unspoken assumptions underlying social behavior and underlying the interpretation of social acts. It is important that you separate your observations clearly and cleanly from the interpretation you develop of these observations. The observations should be objective, neutral reports of behavior. The interpretation should be defensible and grounded in concepts from the class and/or the textbook.
Collect your response in a Word document. Your paper should be about 2 pages long. When you are finished, submit your document
In deciding what to look for in your observational study, you might want to watch for any of the following aspects of social interaction. Select one or at most two from each category.
Elements of American culture:
romantic love
male supremacy
use of stereotypes
specific norms
Processes of socialization:
agents of socialization
primary (child) socialization
adult socialization
anticipatory socialization
Processes and aspects of social interaction:
roles and role performance
role strain or conflict
presentation of self
body language (e.g., gestures)
body/physical space
reality construction


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