Chemical and Physical Sciences

Resources and information for Astronomy, Chemistry, and Physics.

How to Observe

When observing, it is especially important to separate observations from your feelings or reactions to observations. A good way to do this is to take your observations in a double-entry notebook. A double-entry notebook has two columns, one for what is directly observed and one is for what the observer interprets from the events. Here is an example:

Observation: The teacher walks around the circle and speaks to each student individually.

Interpretation: The teacher seems to want to make sure that each student understands the assignment.

If you are observing a group that is not found in public (such as a group of card players, a sports team, or a special-interest group), it may be wise to plan to spend multiple sittings with the group. This will allow the group some time to adjust to your presence (and hence, for you to get more accurate observations).

Recordings vs. Note-taking

How will you be observing? Will you be taking notes in a notebook? With a laptop? Will you be recording your observations in some way (with a digital camera, video camera, digital recorder, etc?

How you choose to observe is another important consideration that can affect the quality and results of your observations. Remember that you cannot capture everything that takes place with a recording or by even by taking detailed notes.

What to Observe

Observational skills require some practice! The key to being a good observer is to pay attention to the details of a situation, write as much as you can, and write it as detailed as possible.

Before you observe, you should consider how you will focus your observations--because you can't focus on everything!


Observing, Conducting Primary Research Purdue OWL Retrieved 2/4/2014 from

Data Analysis

Analysis is a type of primary research that involves finding and interpreting patterns in data, classifying those patterns, and generalizing the results. It is useful when looking at actions, events, or occurrences in different texts, media, or publications.  Analysis can be done on new documents or performed on raw data that you yourself have collected.

Here are several examples of analysis:

  • Recording commercials on three major television networks and analyzing race and gender within the commercials to discover some conclusion.
  • Analyzing the historical trends in public laws by looking at the records at a local courthouse.
  • Analyzing topics of discussion in chat rooms for patterns based on gender and age.


Analysis research involves several steps:

  • Finding and collecting documents.
  • Specifying criteria or patterns that you are looking for.
  • Analyzing documents for patterns, noting number of occurrences or other factors.


Analysis, Conducting Primary Research.  Purdue OWL Retrieved 2/4/2014 from


Creating Good Interview and Survey Questions

When creating questions you want to avoid:

Biased questions

Biased questions are questions that encourage your participants to respond to the question in a certain way. They may contain biased terminology or are worded in a biased way.

Biased question: Don't you agree that campus parking is a problem?
Revised question: Is parking on campus a problem?


Questions that assume what they ask

These questions are a type of biased question and lead your participants to agree or respond in a certain way.

Biased question: There are many people who believe that campus parking is a problem. Are you one of them?
Revised question: Do you agree or disagree that campus parking is a problem?


Double-barreled questions

A double-barreled question is a one that has more than one question embedded within it. Participants may answer one but not both, or may disagree with part or all of the question.

Double-barreled question: Do you agree that campus parking is a problem and that the administration should be working diligently on a solution?
Revised question: Is campus parking a problem? (If the participant responds yes): Should the administration be responsible for solving this problem?


Confusing or wordy questions

Make sure your questions are not confusing or wordy. Confusing questions will only lead to confused participants, which leads to unreliable answers.

Confusing questions: What do you think about parking? (This is confusing because the question isn't clear about what it is asking--parking in general? The person's ability to park the car? Parking on campus?) Do you believe that the parking situation on campus is problematic or difficult because of the lack of spaces and the walking distances or do you believe that the parking situation on campus is ok? (This question is both very wordy and leads the participant.)
Revised question: What is your opinion of the parking situation on campus?


Questions that do not relate to what you want to learn

Be sure that your questions directly relate to what it is you are studying. A good way to do this is to ask someone else to read your questions or even test your survey out on a few people and see if the responses fit what you are looking for.

Unrelated questions: Have you ever encountered problems in the parking garage on campus? Do you like or dislike the bus system?

Interview and Survey Questions, Conducting Primary Research  Purdue OWL Retrieved 2/4/2014 from

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