Tips On Writing An Observation 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.

Here’s something you might not know about me. I have amazingly keen powers of observation. Right now, I see a student looking for a little help on an observation essay. Pretty good, huh?

But an observation essay isn’t just about listing what you see. In a way, it’s like narrative writing. You need to frame your observations in some type of story. You need to answer “so what?”

In other words, why are you writing the paper, and what should readers get from reading it?

In case my three-sentence explanation didn’t clear it all up for you, here’s an article with more information about writing observation essays: The Observation Essay: How to Make More Brilliant Observations.

I’ve also included the following three things in this post to help you with your observation essay:

  1. Two annotated observation essay examples to help you see how it’s done.
  2. Two additional example essays for your review.
  3. Links to articles with even more writing advice.

Let’s start with our annotated observation essay examples.

2 Observation Essay Examples to Watch Closely

As you read through these two observation essay examples, notice that both have a have a purpose for telling their story. In other words, the writer isn’t simply observing for the sake of observing.

There’s a point to the observation (one that the writer had in mind even before beginning the observation). The essay then frames the observation in a narrative format.

To help you see what I mean by this, I’ve included comments in both essays to highlight key sections, as well as each paper’s strengths and weaknesses.

For both observation essay examples, my commentary is below each paragraph. The specific text I’m discussing is notated with a bracket and a corresponding number [#]. When you see an asterisk in front of that at the end of a paragraph *[#], my comments apply to the preceding paragraph(s) as a whole.

Observation essay example #1: A Report on a Child Observation Project in a Preschool Class

A Report on Child Observation Project in a Preschool Class

Introduction

For this project, I observed my mother’s preschool class for three hours, and three kids that she baby-sits on weekends for three hours. Most of the kids that are in the preschool class were three years old, but there was one five year old. The kids I helped babysit were two twin three year old girls, and one five year old. *[1]

Susan says:

*[1] When writing an observation essay, consider whether you should be writing a narrative paper that tells the story of your observation or a more scientific report.

This introduction is informative and reads like a scientific report because it discusses language acquisition and other aspects of child development.

Given that, this type of introduction is appropriate.

However, some scientific papers require the use of third person, and this paper uses first person. Make sure to check your assignment guidelines before you start writing.

(Read: How to Read and Understand an Essay Assignment.)

Body paragraphs

[2]When I first arrived at the preschool, the kids seemed very shy towards me and they did not seem like they were very sociable. I was a stranger to them, and I would have to guess that all of the children were experiencing a little bit of stranger anxiety. I talked to my mother about how the children reacted at the beginning of the year when they did not know her and the parents left them there. She said that the children often would cry and become very uneasy. I believe that these would be signs of separation anxiety. *[3]

Susan says:

[2] Most observation essays will detail events in chronological order. Here, the writer starts with the initial meeting of the children.

Even if they’re chronological, observation essays cannot simply be a list of things you observe. You still need a purpose.

Susan says:

*[3] In this paragraph, the writer begins to explain the children’s behavior and separation anxiety.

Thus, it’s clear that this writer’s purpose is not to just observe kids for the sake of observation but to analyze their behavior based on materials studied in a specific class.

As I sat down to play with the children, I noticed one thing right away. The boys in the group were very wild and rambunctious, and the girls seemed to be shy and reserved. This would agree with what we have learned in class that boys will tend to be more outgoing, and girls will be more reserved. *[4]

Susan says:

*[4] In this brief paragraph, the writer again connects the observations to information learned in class, specifically regarding the differences in behavior between the girls and boys.

In preschool class, my mother has various stuffed animals, and I also noticed that the children that I helped babysit had a lot of stuffed animals. My mother often has puppet shows and the kids love it. I noticed one child was sitting at the table having a conversation with a stuffed beaver. The two twin girls I was babysitting had a giant stuffed bee, and I would chase after them with it and sting them. This shows what the book calls animistic thinking. According to the book, this kind of thinking is the belief that inanimate objects are alive. *[5]

Susan says:

*[5] The above paragraph connects the children’s behavior to animistic thinking using the example of the children’s play with stuffed animals.

(Read: 3 Types of Essay Support That Prove You Know Your Stuff.)

Another form of animistic thinking would be when my mother told a story about a leprechaun. When my mother asked where leprechauns lived, one child replied that, and I quote, “leprechauns live in the grass and run around from tree to tree, they are itsy bitsy and very hard to see.” These children believed that these creatures were real, but they just could not see them. But, the fun with the leprechauns had just begun. To test the children’s belief in the unrealistic, I had my mother and the kids make little pots, and then I had my mother tell all of the kids that if they were good, the leprechaun would leave them gold in their pot. While these kids were eating their snacks, I left and put gold candy in their pots, and then waited for their reactions and comments when they came back to see what had happened. I wish I could have recorded their reactions because some of them were hilarious. I noticed that one child jumped around and screamed that “he was here, he was here,” and another child was looking around the room trying to find the leprechaun. Overall, I found that my animistic thinking project worked well. To conclude my observations on animistic thinking, I found that most of the kids seemed to have beliefs based on what they sensed to be true, rather than on what would be logic or rational. *[6]

Susan says:

*[6] Here, the writer includes a more detailed discussion of observations to explain the concept of animistic thinking.

For the most part, the writer relies on visual observations, such as “one child jumped around and screamed” and “another child was looking around the room.”

The writer also includes some auditory observations through the use of children’s quotes, such as “he was here, he was here.”

Remember to include a variety of senses in your paper. Don’t simply rely on what you see.

[7] Language development between the three-year-old kids, and the five-year-old kids was amazing. There were some grammatical morpheme problems that I picked up on throughout my stay at the preschool and when I was baby-sitting the other girls. I did not notice many mistakes by the five-year-old girl, in fact she was very good with sentence structure and words. But, I did notice a lot of the three year old kids struggled with prepositions, suffixes, and prefixes. I few sentences I heard were, “he sitted down on me,” or “she hitted me with the beaver.” As you can see, the children are learning that they need to add the “ed” to the end of some words, but they do not know when it is and when it is not appropriate to do it yet. *[8]

Susan says:

[7] Here, the writer might say something like “In addition…” at the beginning of the sentence to provide a smoother transition between paragraphs.

(Read: 97 Transition Words for Essays You Need to Know.)

Also, the use of “amazing” is problematic because it’s a subjective term. Instead, something more objective would make this a stronger statement.

Susan says:

*[8] This paragraph begins a discussion of language development, and while the paragraph is missing a transition to smoothly link ideas between paragraphs, it does transition well between sentences within the paragraph.

[9] I noticed a lot of imitation in the children at the preschool. I guess I was an adult model for some of the children. I noticed that one child followed me around the room one time when I went to go to the bathroom. He did not go into the bathroom, but I did notice that everything I did when I walked back to the room, he did. Why do kids do that? The girls I babysat for played an annoying game on me one time. Just try to imagine two three-year-old twin girls repeating everything I said. I guess that would be a form of imitation. I also noticed imitation between the kids themselves. The naughty boys in the preschool seemed to almost copy each other when they would cause trouble. If one was standing on his chair, the other would stand on his chair. And, if one was playing in a certain area, then the other one would go to that area to play. The girls often imitated one another also. I noticed that one little girl went to go play with the dolls, and sure enough, most of the other girls went along to play with the dolls with her. In conclusion to imitation, I would imagine that imitation is a great way for children to learn about the world, and is often a sociable test to see how far that they can stretch the rules. I noticed that when a model is present, imitation is likely to take place. *[10]

Susan says:

[9] Again, the above paragraph is missing a transition as it begins a discussion of a new topic. This sentence serves as a good topic sentence for the paragraph, however.

(Read: Here Is the Right Way and the Wrong Way to Write Topic Sentences.)

Susan says:

*[10] At the end of the paragraph, the writer asserts a conclusion based on observations of children’s imitation, stating that imitation is likely to take place when a model is present.

This is an effective strategy as the writer is not simply describing what occurs in the classroom but is demonstrating critical thinking through analysis of the children’s behavior.

I spent a great deal of time watching how the children in the preschool played, and when I was baby-sitting, I did more playing than watching. In the book, play is described as “pleasurable activity engaged for its own sake.” I noticed that there was some parallel play. An example I found was when two boys were playing with Lego’s. The boys did not participate directly with one another, but they played alongside each other and other children while they were enjoying their Lego’s. There was some associative play, but I saw more of this in the girls. Some of the girls were playing with Barbie’s, and were having their own little soap opera going on. The girls were demonstrating associative play because they were playing and sharing with each other. I had the chance to participate in cooperative play when we played “duck, duck, goose!” Come on, you know the game. Well, I was pretty good at the game so they made me crawl on my knees. But, this showed cooperative play because the children were involved in structured games that involved rules. When I was baby-sitting, I was involved in some fantasy play. The twin three-year-old girls told me that I was the daddy, and one was the mommy, and the other was the kid, and the giant stuffed bee was also a kid. We played in a little area with toy stoves and washing machines and stuff. This is an example of fantasy play because these young girls believed that things were different than they really were.The last thing I noticed while observing the two twin girls was that there was a little bit of sibling rivalry. They both fought constantly for my attention. *[11]

Susan says:

*[11] The above paragraph includes a discussion of parallel play, associative play, and fantasy play.

However, the writer includes only a limited analysis of each and should develop these ideas further and separate them into individual paragraphs.

(Read: Anatomy of the Perfect Essay Paragraph Structure.)

Conclusion

Overall, I enjoyed observing the children, and enjoyed playing with them. I learned a lot about what kids do, and had the chance to experience it hands on. *[12]

Susan says:

*[12] The concluding paragraph is two sentences long and lacks development.

The writer should provide more information to wrap up the observations and conclusions about the children’s behavior.

(Read: How to Write a Killer Essay Conclusion.)

Observation essay example #2: An Observation Experiment at the Agriculture and Food Fair: People Using the Event to Making a Fashion Statement

Introduction

[1] The place I observed is the Agriculture and Food Fair on February 13 and February 15 at 2 pm on both days. [2] Every February, St. Croix hosts the largest agricultural festival at Rudolph Shulterbrandt Agricultural Complex in Estate Lower Love. I observed the Agriculture Food Fair because all I heard about Fair was that it is a fashion show and everyone is dressed to impress.  I mainly examined the entrance and the park. Being that I attended fair almost every year, I expected to see everyone dressed up but still see casual dressing. I argue that some locals on Saint Croix attend the Agriculture Fair just to make a fashion statement or appearance.

Susan says:

[1] This opening line is informative and appropriate for a more scientific report.

If the writer wanted to write a more narrative observation essay (which this essay seems to be), he or she might try opening with a story or anecdote about the fair and its patrons (to help grab the reader’s attention).

(Read: How to Write Good Hook Sentences.)

Susan says:

[2] Including background information about the subject being observed can be a useful strategy to help readers understand the writer’s reason behind the observation.

Here, the writer explains why he or she chose to observe the fashions on display at the fair.

Body paragraphs

[3] It was a usual, hot and sunny day on the fairgrounds. The delicious aroma of the different local foods was wafting through the air as I walk towards the crowded entrance. As I entered the fairgrounds the first thing I saw was of course a swarm of people everywhere. I then leaned against the gate and observed people and their whereabouts. Some by the different food booths, some dancing by the stage enjoying themselves, the kids playing in the bouncy, and some of the elders on the trolley. The others were just standing around associating with friends and family. Standing at the top I could’ve seen a bigger crowd of people just over the bridge.  As I walked down the path it felt like I was on the runway because everyone was just standing on both sides just staring.[4] Since it was so many people to observe all at the same time, I mainly focused on four groups of people.  Group A was a group of girls that called themselves “The Chocolate Factory”, Group B was a group of boys that called themselves “Team Tru”, Families and different organizations.  As I walked through the fair there was many people that I could have chosen from but these specific groups more address my topic because they not only show the overly dressed but those that dressed simple.

Susan says:

[3] Notice that the writer observes not only the sights but the aromas of the fair too.

Including a variety of senses is an effective strategy to help readers visualize the fair.

Susan says:

[4] Here, the writer focuses the essay by identifying the various types of groups that will be observed: the overly dressed and those who dress more simply.

(Read: How to Narrow a Topic and Write a Focused Paper.)

Each year some people seems to attend the Agriculture Fair to look cute and show off their clothing more than to enjoy our culture. Some locals see Fair more like a fashion show and a place to just chill with their friends. For example, a little boy’s outfit caught my eyes. He was sitting in a stroller wearing timberlands (boots), a baby jersey and long jeans. He wasn’t even walking or playing with the other kids just sitting in the stroller looking adorable.The other children were dressed as typical children in sundresses, jeans, and a t shirt.  As I proceeded to cross the bridge I came in contact with these stunning young ladies better known as the “Chocolate Factory”. I know these young ladies from residence hall. When I first moved onto Residence Hall we all looked out for each other and decided to stick together. Of course I expected to see overly dressed individuals but these ladies took the cake! One was dressed in a cocktail dress with her back out and gladiator shoes. Another was dressed in a black and white bodycon dress with short pointed heels. The other three wore a crop top with boyfriend jeans, maxi skirt and pencil skirt. They also wore their hair in buns, box braids and curly sew-ins.  If it was a fashion show they would be slaying the runway. *[5]

Susan says:

*[5] In the above paragraph, the writer describes the overly dressed patrons that appear a bit out of place at the fair.

These examples help illustrate the focus: that some people use the fair as a fashion show. They don’t visit the fair to see the culture.

Nowadays it is common to see men wearing chains, bracelets and earrings like women. But these guys that I saw overdid it with the jewelry. While I ate my Johnny cakes and chicken I observed a group of boys sitting on the bench. Two of the young men wore a white t-shirt with a khaki pants and some timberlands. The others wore a black t-shirt, dark jeans and some Jordan sneakers. The boys weren’t that bad when it came to their clothing, but what amazed me was their jewelry. Among them, they were several bracelets, long chains, and a ring on every finger. No exaggeration but almost every finger (except for the thumbs) had a ring!  Other than the jewelry, the guys were a bit simple this year. My brothers are a part of “Team Tru,” and I’ve seen them dress up before. That is why I determine that the guys dressed pretty simple this year. *[6]

Susan says:

*[6] The above paragraph describes another group of people who parade through the fair as if they are in a fashion show.

Providing a number of examples helps the writer illustrate the key purpose of the paper. The writer does a good job staying focused.

(To double-check that your own essay stays on track, read What Is a Reverse Outline and Why Should You Use One?)

The best part of the fair was seeing the family members not only stick together but some of them dressed alike.  Especially those dressed in African and madras fabrics. They was basically representing their culture through their clothing, which was awesome. A family that dresses together stays together. Kids that dress together always look cute, but when their parents dress in coordinating outfits, the final ensemble is memorable. Like my father always said, “All ah we is one,” and that’s exactly what this family portrayed to me. This one family that I focused on consist of five members. The mother wore an off the shoulder, cocktail African print dress with her natural hair flying in the wind and the father wore an African print shirt with a khaki pants and dress shoes.  The teenage daughter wore an African print romper with gladiator shoes and the younger daughter wore a thin strap African print shirt and jean skirts with jelly bean shoes.  The son wore something similar to his father except he wore Nike sneakers. They all walked with pep in their step happily down the corridor. *[7] 

On the other hand, the show can’t go on without the queens! There’s was no way that I could’ve passed them straight with their stunning dresses. As I was walking down the corridor I met with some of the contenders for Ms. UVI. They were all dressed in white dresses with a little bit of madras around their waist. They also had on some dashing heels.  Majority of them were wearing wedges and few was wearing stilettos.They also wore their sash. Some of their hair was in sew-ins and messy hair buns. *[8] 

Last but not least I visited a few organizations.  I visited Innovative booth, The University of the Virgin Islands and the National Guard. They all wore a t-shirt that represents their organization except for the National Guard. They wore their uniforms.  Otherwise there was a lot of organizations or businesses in uniform. *[9] 

Susan says:

*[7], *[8],*[9] Though the above paragraphs provide an overview of the groups of people the writer observed, the information reads much like a simple description.

The writer could improve these paragraphs by connecting them through additional discussions of how the people appear to be parading in a fashion show.

Conclusion

[10] Judging from the four groups that I observed, I can say that some people go to the fair to show their appearance and draw attention with the clothes they wear but appearance doesn’t matter to everyone. The simplest group was of course the organizations. I do feel being that they didn’t really have a choice is the reason for them dressing simple. I did learn that not everyone attends the fair to make a fashion statement but to enjoy the foods and activities provided.  But I really wanted to know “Where did guys get the money for all those rings?” and “Is it really necessary?” I even watched some of my friends spend a lot of money on one outfit just to attend the fair and wear it for one day.  Fair is already expensive so maybe if people didn’t spend so much on clothing, they could afford to try out many of the natural products, jewelry, food and local drinks from some of the vendors. *[11]

Susan says:

[10] This first sentence of the concluding paragraph wraps up the focus of the paper: the idea that people often attend the fair to simply draw attention to their clothing.

Susan says:

*[11] In the conclusion as a whole, the writer also asks a variety of questions to keep readers thinking about the subject. This use of questions is a great strategy to engage the reader.

The conclustion also ends the paper with finality, so it’s a good example of a solid conclusion.

(Read: 12 Essay Conclusion Examples to Help You Finish Strong.)

A Little Help From Your Friends

Hopefully, these observation essay examples have given you a few ideas for your own essay. But this post doesn’t stop with only two examples. Here are the other resources I promised.

Two additional observation essay examples:

Three articles with more writing tips:

Your friends at Kibin are here to do more than just observe too. Our editors will provide expert feedback to help you make your paper the best it can be.

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

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