EX02 - Observational Research

Go where the people are

Even in an age of social distancing, people require food.

Updated April 13, 2020

If you enjoy people watching, this will be quite fun. For this task, you’re going to leave the confines of your home or office for a field trip.

How people interact has fundamentally changed in recent months.

Whether we ever return to a normal that you or I would recognize is unknown. In a world so unsettled, our base observations about people and society are invalid.

How people use sidewalks, pick up food, go shopping, interact with neighbors, visit relatives... it's all changed.

That's why observation (from a safe distance) is vitally important to the success of your work.

Almost every city or town has a grocery store where people can grab what they need to feed themselves or their families sufficiently.

Resources for review

Please review the following items before attempting the exercise:

Article/Video Source/Author
The best place to start is in the field New Pragmatic
Research methods in psychology Open Text WSU


Length: One-to-two hours to complete

In this exercise, you will be observing the buying habits of shoppers at a local grocery store (from a distance).

The duration of this task is a minimum of 30 minutes, but the longer you can stay without drawing attention, the better your research for this exercise will be.

  1. Find a place to station yourself near the exit area (but not in a location that would slow customers from exiting the store).
  2. Make a note of the conditions present (refer to list above).
  3. Record how many users check out during your time there.
  4. Note the demographic details for each shopper and make a rough guess regarding the number of bags or items they have purchased (do they need a cart? was it just toilet paper? etc...)
  5. What is the mood of the customers exiting the checkout area?
  6. Are the customers with family? On the phone? Otherwise distracted?
  7. Create a new Google Doc to record your findings.


The quality of your observation gains a new dimension when you return for the second round of research OR if you move to a similar establishment (trading one grocery store for another). When you take this extra step, you begin to see similarities and differences between the two locations that aren’t possible in a single session.


Upon completion, update your Program Journal with links to any assets produced in this exercise. Post your journal in the Feedback-Loop channel for review.

Up next Fresh Market: Stakeholder Interviews

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