Slide 7 of 16
However, in social research (and, hence, in information research), observation may be direct or indirect. That is, the researcher him- or herself, may watch what is happening, or may rely on the reported observations of others.
For example, if you are interested in how people use Web search-engines, you could sit beside them during a surfing session and watch what happens, recording the different terms used for the subject and the stages the person went through. You could also log some of this information automatically - that is, the machine makes the observations for you - or you could videotape what was appearing on the screen, while you tape-recorded the person talking aloud about their activity. This would be direct observation.
On the other hand, you could conduct interviews with people about how they use search-engines: they would then have to recall what they did and report it to you. This assumes that people have an ability to recall earlier behaviour accurately - which may not always be true. If you then proceed to ask them about their opinions of, or attitudes towards Web search-engines, you are asking them to observe (probably for the first time) their mental states on these issues - you are asking them to make self-observations.