Observation in evaluation

In this document, Richard Krueger outlines some key ideas around using observation effectively in evaluation.

He touches on ethical reflections, issues that may arise, analysis, and examples of use. He also includes a list of steps to consider when undertaking observation.

This resource was kindly updated by Richard Krueger in November 2017 after being contacted by BetterEvaluation about an out-of-date link to a previous resource on the site.

The following resource recommendation information was contributed by Alice Macfarlan.

Authors and their affiliation

Richard Krueger

Key features of Observation in evaluation

This PDF document contains an overview of observation with suggestions on how observation can be done effectively and also meet accepted evaluation standards.

Krueger discusses the variety of ways observation can be used in evaluation, from an initial exploratory observation to a more focused observation targeting specific behaviours, as well as the levels of involvement of an evaluator in an observation (how obvious the observation should be) and touches on some of the ethical issues involved in this.

The document highlights some of the limits of observation that evaluators should be aware of (such as fatigue, emotional stress, disruptions and distractions, and time).

It also lays out a series of steps that are often followed in observation, including advice on how to follow these appropriate and what factors might be useful to keep in mind.

How have you used or intend on using this resource?

I would use this at the planning stage, when I wanted to get a broad understanding of what some of the considerations and ways of using this option are, and then again just prior to undertaking an observation so that I could benefit from the tips and advice Krueger imparts.

Why would you recommend it to other people?

This is a good overview of some of the key issues that need to be considered when undertaking observation. Richard Krueger is great at explaining things in an easy and engaging manner, as well as offering frank advice when necessary ("don't trust your memory" - on the importance of using notes and sketches). I particularly like that this document doesn't preach one right way of doing an observation, instead focusing on questions and issues the observer should be engaging with before, during and after an observation. It also contains some useful resources for further guidance.


Krueger, R. A. (2017). Observation in evaluation. Retrieved from: http://www.betterevaluation.org/sites/default/file/Observation%20R.Krueger%2010.17.pdf

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