Observation & Shadowing

 Observation and shadowing is about spending time observing a participant in the context of their life at home or at work. Watching someone’s behaviour can surface new insights beyond what people say in an interview. Observation and shadowing can be followed up with an interview based on what was observed to dig deeper into their behaviour. 


  • Recruit participants
  • Arrive at their work or home promptly and introduce yourself and the project. 
  • Confirm that they understand that you're going to spend some time shadowing their activities
  • Ask them to show you what they do. Depending on your research topic you may focus on specific activities, or have them carry on a "typical day" for a broader focus.
  • Let the person explain their work over the time that you spend together. Ask follow-up questions to clarify, especially points most relevant to your areas of interest.
  • Wrap up by having them clarify any outstanding questions, or conduct a more formal interview


  • Approach an observation session just like an intern or someone new on the job. Have your participant explain things as if you know nothing about their work.

  • Give your participant some language in advance to explain to others why you're with them, e.g., "Oh, Jim is from the Intranet project and is tagging along with me today to learn more about my work."