How to write an observation essay: Detailed Instructions

Aug 26, 2019 7278 views

Over the course of your academic study, you will be given many different assignments, one of which may turn out to be an observational essay. We will tell you how to write an observational paper, and provide you with a few tips on how to make more engaging for the reader.

Answer the "What is an Observation Essay" Question

In reality, it is one of the easiest and the most interesting academic assignments. However, some students may get confused about the requirements for such an essay because they are used to writing analytical papers.

The observation essay definition is rather simple and self-explanatory: this type of academic paper implies making observations and providing a detailed description of certain objects, events, natural phenomena, individuals or groups of people and then making the relevant conclusions. In general, writing an observation essay is a bit simpler than any other type of academic paper because it doesn't require any analysis or problem-solving. Basically, what a student has to do is diligently observe the behavior of the subject or the object and write down everything in detail. While you don't have to sift through numerous pages of books and brochures in search for the relevant information (like you would have to do for an argumentative or a response essay), writing a good observation essay requires a set of specific skills. A student who were assigned to write an observation essay would have to be very patient and attentive to details, he or she also has to have an extensive vocabulary in order to be able to describe the processes as vividly and precisely as possible. The student also must be able to take a lot of notes and organize them in an orderly fashion so that he/she could later convey them in the essay.

Useful Observation Essay Tips

Before we begin describing the structure, formatting and other aspects of an observation essay, we would like to give you some observation essay tips on how to make this essay stand out from the rest.

#1 Choose the object of observation that fascinates you. You wouldn't want to spend hours or even days observing something, or someone, whom you are not very fond of. If you were assigned the topic for the observation essay, try to focus on the point that may interest you and use it as a cornerstone for your description. For instance, if you were told to write an observation essay about the representative of a particular subculture such as street artists, while you are not fond of them as individuals, try to focus your observations on their artistic works, not their personalities.

#2 Use all your senses to create a more vivid picture of the things that you observe. Don't limit your observations to just looking at things or people. Try to touch these things, smell or even taste them; engage in a prolonged conversation with people whom you are observing, find out more about their personalities and then watch their behavior while having a better understanding of their inner world. It will help you get an entirely different perspective on the object or the subject and make your observation essay much more vivid and engaging.

#3 Try to apply present tence. This way you will allow the readers to perceive the events that you describe in the essay as if they are unfolding right before them, thus improving the engagement and the interest in the depicted event or object.

Observation essay structure: Coherent and well-grounded

Being asked to write such an academic paper many students get slightly confused because they are not really sure about how to structure an observation essay. They think that since it doesn't require the traditional set of academic writing skills, the structuring should also be unconventional. In reality, the structure of an observation essay is not different from the format of any other academic paper. It must have the following parts:


If you don't know how to start an observation essay, well, the answer is quite obvious: start it with the introduction. It is the part where the author has to get the reader acquainted with the object or the event that he or she intends to describe in the essay. This introduction should be succinct but informative, not drawing the reader's focus from the actual observation process.

You must never forget that the observation essay introduction must also include a thesis statement. However, unlike other essays, the thesis statement in an observation essay shouldn't support or deny any arguments or contain any strong statements for that matter. It would be sufficient to say why this observation is important for your field of academic study and what methods you used when conducting it.

Main body

Just like in any other academic paper, the observation essay includes from one to five paragraphs. Each of those should be logically connected with each other and form a complete picture of an event or an object that you have been describing. Try to put as much information as possible in each paragraph and make your description vivid and detailed. Don't just limit yourself to describing the overall appearance of the object or the things that happened during the event. Write about what you feel when you make the observations. Look for details which are not apparent for the ordinary viewer.


In your observation essay conclusion, you must rephrase and restate your thesis statement and then describe your overall impression regarding the process of observation and the event or the subject that you have been observing. Again, there is no need to make any strong statements, just tell the reader that you enjoyed making an observation. Basically, that is all you need to know about how to end an observation essay.

Observation essay format styles

In most cases, observation essays are written using MLA as it is the most popular and the most appropriate formatting style for this writing assignment. However, your teacher may ask you to prepare the paper applying APA or Chicago style for your observation essay format. Nevertheless, it shouldn't pose a problem since observation essays don't require plenty of quoting and references.

Observation essay outline: See the structure clearly

Frequently, you will be asked to write an outline for observation essay. In case you don't know how to do it appropriately, we will gladly provide a good example of the observation essay outline.

  1. Introduction
    • Observation of human behavior during protests
    • The behavior of people may change radically during different stages of protest
  2. Body
    • How I joined the protest event called Occupy Wall Street
    • How people behaved at the initial stages of the protest
    • How their behavior changed when they confronted the representative of a large trading firm
    • How passers-by reacted to the protesters
  3. Conclusion
    • The thoughts about the overall experience
    • What make people so agitated when they participate in protests