Scientific Observation – Concept, characteristics and examples

We explain what scientific observation is, why it is so important and its characteristics. Also, their classification and examples.

Scientific observation
Scientific observation guarantees the objectivity and demonstrability of scientific studies.

What is scientific observation?

When we talk about scientific observation We refer to the process of detailing any phenomenon of nature with analytical intent and the purpose of collecting as much objective information as possible.

It is one of the initial steps of the so-called scientific method, which consists of a series of steps that guarantee the objectivity and demonstrability of scientific studies.

Scientific observation aspires to contemplate and understand nature in its purest state, that is, without interference from man, as the naturalists of the nineteenth century tried. However, today it is known that there is a paradox in this regard, since the presence of an observer in many cases modifies what is observed.

Anyway, scientific observation deal with natural phenomena taking into account as much context as possible, seeking an exhaustive understanding of the conditions that influence the phenomenon that, in general, will be later replicated in a laboratory (experimentation) or controlled environment. Often the contemplation of what happens in concrete experiments is also considered a method of observation.

Often these information gathering processes are supported by tools such as surveys, specific instruments (microscopes, stethoscopes, telescopes, etc.) or parallel processes (when the phenomenon cannot be observed directly), depending on the nature of the observed object and the the scientific perspective itself.

Importance of scientific observation

scientific observation
Scientific observation made it possible to verify many of the laws that govern the Universe.

Scientific observation has yielded the largest amount of data throughout history of those that make up our world encyclopedia.

This means that by observing nature and drawing conclusions from these observations, we have been able to deduce and then experimentally verify many of the laws that govern the Universe.

Hence, the observation is fundamental in the systematic and orderly approach proposed by the scientific method, so that the results are as reliable as possible.

Characteristics of scientific observation

Scientific observation requires a very specific delimitation of what is observed, that is to say, that it is understood what exactly is going to be observed of a phenomenon of nature. This limitation of interests is essential to choose between which data to record and which not.

On the other hand, it is necessary to know what exactly is (or what is presumed to be) what is observed. So the observation is not given in white, but scientists have a prior hypothesis regarding what is observed.

In the same way, the observation will establish categories for what is observed and will try to explain it with the previous knowledge acquired. The observation will also be repeated to verify the results, which will then be tried to reproduce experimentally.

Types of scientific observation

Scientific observation
Being in nature, the scientist can directly observe the phenomenon.

There are two basic types of observation, which are:

  • Direct The one in which the fact or phenomenon that is being pursued can be detailed.
  • Hint. That in which the phenomenon pursued is not observable, but its presence can be deduced from parallel observations or other phenomena. It also applies to observations that are based on previous data collected by other scientists.

The observation can also be classified according to its place of realization, in:

  • Field observation. When the scientist is in nature itself or his instruments allow him to observe the phenomenon directly in his place in it.
  • Laboratory observation. When the observed phenomenon occurs in the controlled environment of the laboratory, that is, when it is replicated experimentally.

Examples of scientific observation

A perfect example of scientific observation is the trip of the English scientist Charles Darwin to the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador.

Darwin already had theories about the origin of species (which he later published in a book of the same title) and which he had accumulated throughout his other travels and observations. So their purpose was to look at biodiversity from a specific hypothetical perspective.

While there, Darwin observed the behavior and anatomy of the local species, comparing them with the species found on the mainland, and could see how there were fundamental similarities between the two, even though they were not the same at all.

This allowed him to deduce that by being away so long, each species had adapted to a different environment, thus giving rise to a different species.

Darwin used mostly a notebook and pencil for his annotations, but his successors in the study of biology have many more tools to check on the genetic and anatomical level the brilliant observations made by Darwin.