This review focuses on structured observational research, primarily in services for people with learning disabilities.
Observational research is particularly useful where people using services are unable to answer interviews or questionnaires about their experiences, and where proxy respondents may not be sufficiently accurate sources of data.
The review illustrates the use of observational data in assessing and improving the quality of services. Using examples from the research literature, the review deals with the question of what to observe and how to define it so that the information gathered is valid and reliable. It deals with sampling (how often to observe and for how long) in order to obtain representative information, considers the practical steps that have to be taken in order to make observations in services, and shows how to analyse and present observational data.