Last Updated on August 16, 2022 by

Have you ever found yourself stranded in the lab, unable to do your research? If yes, then it is highly possible that you are using the right technique to study your topic. Know that when lab studies are difficult to carry out, you, as a researcher, can observe and study the subject in its natural setting. This approach to researching a subject is called naturalistic observation.

It is a hallmark of scientific research. Pretty cool definition, right? NO! Do not worry; a much more comprehensive definition of this research method is on the way because today’s article is all about this effective observation method of research. I will explain its importance in research and some examples of this research method too in this article, along with this a highlight of its important features. So, let’s get started.

What is naturalistic observation?

It is a research method that involves researching the subject of your research in its natural setting or environment. Unlike lab experiments and research where you test the hypotheses in a controlled environment, this research method allows for greater flexibility. You can extend your arms as much as you can to research the subject. Naturalistic observation is a qualitative research method often used in psychology and social science fields of study.

How does the naturalistic observation method work?

One thing is obvious; people do not behave naturally in a lab setting like in a natural setting. The people here mean the research participants or the population you are conducting your research on. However, as a researcher, you sometimes need to collect data about the natural behaviours of the participants. You want to observe their behaviour as it happens. The reason is that this is how you can better analyse your subject and support your research with empirical results.

For example, a teacher-researcher is interested in researching the classroom behaviour of several students. Now, what will the teacher do? He will observe them in the class regularly and note down how they interact with different teachers. The best part of naturalistic observation is that the research participants do not know that they are the participants. They just act normal, and the researcher captures this data. So, this is how this research method works, and the researcher collects the empirical data. But still there are many researchers who get masters dissertation help for this research method.

Importance of naturalistic observation in academic research

Observing a subject in its natural setting is important when you want to learn about people living in a specific cultural setting. Sometimes, studying such people in the lab and asking them to behave naturally can impact their overall behaviour. So, it is important to use this method of observation in your research. Some other points that highlight its importance are as follows:

1.      Offers empirical results

This research method taps directly into the behaviour of interest of your population. It is important because it allows collecting empirical data that is backed by your strong observation of the subject in its natural environment. Also, when you observe the subject without his/her knowledge, you may be able to get the information that they do not normally speak of. Also, the subject feels more confident and comfortable in the natural environment. So, this research method offers you empirical results.

2.      Gives insights into normal social behaviour

Since the research participants act and behave differently in their natural setting than they would in your lab or psychologist’s office, you can get real insights into their normal social behaviour using naturalistic observation. You can see how they interact with other members of society and note the fluctuations in their behaviour. This way, you get more insights into the issue and establish its causes. So, this enhanced knowledge of the normal social behaviour of participants makes this method important.

3.      Higher validity of research results

Another point that makes this research method important to use is its higher validity of research results than any other method. As the research takes place in a natural setting, the research results have high construct and face validity. Its results represent the reality instead of making arguments using other research methods. For example, you watch a patient on and off and visit him often during your shift. He may get suspicious that he is being watched and may act differently than normal. So, the results will not be valid.

Pros and cons of naturalistic observation

After reading the information above, you now have a pretty good understanding of this research method and its importance in academic research. Like any other research method, this method of observing subjects in their natural setting has its own advantages and disadvantages. So, now is the time to discuss those pros and cons. Hence, a brief description of its pros and cons is as follows:


  • Flexibility – is the first advantage of this method. as it is a non-experimental method, you are not bound to strict research guidelines. You can use your own methods and change them midway if needed.
  • Validity – naturalistic observations are often high in validity. The reason is that you use real-time labs instead of the ones you have built. The results of this method have a very high construct and face validity.
  • Innovation – is another benefit of this method, and it is the most important one. Using this research method, you can study new topics, explore new areas of research, and build relationships that never existed in natural environments.


  • Lack of control – is the biggest disadvantage of this method. as you search the subjects in a natural setting, many suppressor and moderate variables can alter the results.
  • Observational bias – is another con which is also the most common one. The researcher may keep some values that answer the questions and discard the others. Moreover, the previous perceptions of the researcher about culture can also affect the observation.


All in all, naturalistic observation is a hallmark of scientific investigation. By producing the data representative of the social behaviours of the research subjects, this method enjoys a high construct and face validity. Hence, seeing its pros above, consider this research method for your master’s or PhD too.