Research Methods for Information Research

4. Observation

4.1 Peer observation

This approach is much favoured in education settings as a way of giving immediately relevant feedback to teachers in the classroom. A broadly similar approach could be adopted in looking at interaction with library and information service users, as a way of stimulating reflection and improving professional practice. At a minimum all that is needed is two willing participants and sufficient time to allow one to observe the other in action and give feedback afterwards. The participants will need to agree on what aspects of the interaction they will look at, will probably need to secure permission from service users immediately affected by the observation, and some ground rules for feedback (such as ‘positive comments first’) will be necessary. A variation on this approach was used recently in a further education college where the teaching staff appraisal programme was extended to include encounters between students and library staff at the enquiry desk.