Many students confuse an observation essay with a narrative or a descriptive paper. What could be easier than watching something happen and describing it in writing? Still, if you do just that, your observation essay will hardly get an A. There is a trick to this assignment you should learn if you wish to get the highest grade. And we will let you in on this secret.
Answer The Big “So What?”’
Have you ever moved from your bedroom to the kitchen only to forget what you needed? Don’t you feel frustrated and angry when you can’t recall the purpose of your actions? Remember this feeling, and you will understand what your readers experience when they skim through your account of a trip to a nearby town or a night out clubbing. A simple retelling of the events seems aimless and leaves the readers disappointed.
Whichever event or experience you describe, ask yourself the most important question: “So what?”. Why should the readers care about your unsuccessful road trip or a visit to the dentist’s office? Find answers to these questions before you write. Otherwise, you will get a bad grade or will need to waste lots of time on editing the observation essay.
By the way, the answer “I am writing an observation paper because my teacher assigned it” is not good enough. If you have to spend time and energy on an assignment, do your best. Think about the useful experience and skills it can bring you and choose the topic you are passionate about. This way your writing will be stronger, and your grades will reflect your hard work and determination.
Try Your Hand At Journalism
Once you know why you wish to observe and describe an event, it’s time for preparations. There is no need to research the topic in-depth like you would do for a persuasive or an argumentative essay. However, it’s a good idea to create a list of questions that will focus your attention and help you take pointed notes instead of jotting down everything you see. Imagine yourself a journalist preparing for an interview or a field trip.
Let’s say you want to analyze the ways people behave in the waiting room of the dentist’s office. To help your observations, think what you would like to learn from this experience. Here is a sample list of questions:
- How many people are there on average?
- Do they come alone or with someone?
- How long do people have to wait for their appointments?
- What do the patients do before they are invited inside?
- How do they react to the patients leaving the dentist’s office?
- Are there extremely nervous patients?
- How do stressed patients calm themselves?
Make the inquiries pointed and precise. The more questions you prepare, the easier it will be for you to make accurate observations you might have missed otherwise.
Translate Information Into Experience
After you have collected notes on your observations, it’s time to organize them and decide on the critical points of the essay. They will make up the bulk of your body paragraphs. Each of them should include a topic sentence, an example or two from your experience and your analysis. Support the behavior you observe with the knowledge obtained in the course you are taking, draw parallels or try your hand at analyzing emotions. Add transitions between paragraphs to make the reader’s experience more smooth.
Here are some tricks to make your observation essay more vivid:
- Use present tense to immerse the reader in the experience, as professional journalists do in their writing.
- Stimulate all five senses. To add another dimension to your observation essay, complement visual patterns with sounds, smells, textures, and tastes, if possible.
- Describe the experience in chronological order. It is the easiest and most logical way to share your observations.
- Write in first or third person, depending on the style of your essay. If you prefer narrative style, go with the first person, but if you want the paper to sound more professional, like a scientific report, utilize the third person.
After the body paragraphs are done, you can go back to creating an exciting introduction. If you choose a narrative style, start with an intriguing hook. It can be a short anecdote or your most surprising observation. The introduction could also use some background information on the topic. And the one thing the first passage can't’ go without is the thesis statement. It should express the purpose and result of your observation experience and allow the reader to get the main idea of the paper at a glance.
The conclusion should not be a carbon copy of your thesis statement, though you should repeat the main point of the essay. The final paragraph is the right place to raise serious questions that you have discovered during your observations. This strategy will keep the readers engaged and make them think more about the subject. Add a final thought to round up the paper and create a feeling of finality.
Writing observation essays is not as easy as it seems at first glance. Luckily, now you know the tricks to dealing with this assignment. Use our advice, keep your purpose in mind, prepare questions like a real journalist and have fun! You never know what new and exciting things you might observe.
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