In observation, you are concerned with recording what people do and say. The aim is to come as close as possible to an understanding of "real life". There are three main types of observation technique:
• simple observation - the researcher is a passive observer, avoiding interaction with the subjects of the study and just attempting to describe what takes place;
• systematic observation - similar to simple observation, but the researcher uses standardised research tools, such as a checklist or questionnaire to structure the recording;
• participative observation - the researcher takes an active role observing, interviewing and participating (for example, working as an employee in the organisation being observed).
In order to avoid ethical difficulties, you should negotiate your entry and role with the subjects of your study - in a work situation, this may mean agreeing the terms of reference of your case study with a manager and then introducing yourself to the people you want to work with and seeking their co-operation.
The observation may take place continuously over a period of time, or may be sporadic - for example, focusing only on particular events when they occur. Either way, to build up a body of evidence through observation may take some time, and you need to plan it carefully to ensure that you use the time efficiently and effectively.