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© 2020 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This chapter examines ways of collecting qualitative data by watching what people do. One good reason for employing observational methods is that we cannot be sure that what people say they do is what they actually do. Observation can be used to address this problem. This can be especially useful when studying how health care organisations work and how staff practice, and for understanding the complex relationships between staff and recipients of services. Observation is a core method in ethnography and anthropology. Whilst observational methods can be used to study a range of phenomena, they can be used for different purposes, ranging from foundational studies designed to develop a deeper understanding of neglected issues or less well understood areas, through to research that uses these methods to support quality improvement or organisational change. Observational research has a strong association with theory development.

Original publication





Book title

Qualitative Research in Health Care

Publication Date



67 - 81