Anecdotal Record: How it is Used in Psychology and Education

A useful tool to monitor the actions that are of interest to study.


Throughout the day, each and every one of us carries out hundreds of different behaviors and actions. Not only us, but also the rest of humanity and even the rest of the animals do it. And many of these behaviors and actions may have a great scientific interest, with which it may be necessary to record them in some way.

In this sense, there are many instruments and methods of evaluation, both objective and subjective. One of the simplest and yet common is direct observation, through which you can experience and record the occurrence of different events throughout the time in which this observation is carried out (or subsequently).

And within the records that we can use, an example can be found in the anecdotal record, about which we will talk throughout this article.

The anecdotal record: what is it?

It is known as an anecdotal record of a type of instrument or methodology for recording behavioral information in which a set of facts, situations or phenomena that have taken place during a period of time in which it is described as objectively as possible are described. has carried out an information.

As a general rule, the anecdotal record takes the form of a report that accounts for the behavior or behavior, interests, actions and procedures carried out by a subject or group, when they occur spontaneously, surprisingly and unexpectedly.

It is the product of a direct observation, which begins at the moment in which an unexpected event that must be recorded takes place. In other words, as the name suggests, it is about the recording of an anecdote.

Unlike other types of records, the anecdotal record is characterized by being carried out in an unplanned or unprepared manner, rather than arising when something has happened that makes it necessary, be it spontaneous or more continuous. The observations are transcribed in an unstructured way, trying to use a clear, precise and unambiguous language. In addition, the registration is usually generated a posteriori, as it is not something planned.

One of the most relevant characteristics of the anecdotal record is found in the fact that the data collected in it must be as objective as possible: it must be a description of the situation or phenomenon described, without including subjective elements in it nor interpretations of the acts. This is important, because if the data are objective, they will not be biased by the beliefs and expectations of the observer and can be analyzed by third parties. At least not in the description itself, although a later section can be made with the interpretation given to it.

The description of the situation must be precise and include especially the unforeseen situation, but it must also include context information. This includes the time, place or presence or absence of other people, among others.

What is it useful for?

The anecdotal record can have many uses and in many different areas. But one of the contexts in which they are most used is in the educational field.

In this sector, teachers and professionals can register the presence of events, situations or attitudes that are relevant or striking, and that may warrant a record for some type of action or subsequent intervention. And not only the faculty, but also the student himself can make a record if necessary.

In addition, it can also be used as a basis for a more systematic study on the attitude or even personality traits and psychosocial development of the subject. Other sectors in which it can be of utlidad is in the study of the behavior of a group, or it can even be used in sectors such as the penitentiary.

Main points that must have Although it does not have a necessarily fixed structure, in general we must bear in mind that an anecdotal record must incorporate a series of main elements.

Among the different elements to be highlighted, basic data should be included such as time and date, place, name of the subject, type of activity or situation and the context in which it is carried out. After that, an objective, clear description without any interpretation or ambiguity must be incorporated (and this the main point).

Optionally, and especially if there are already several observations that allow us to see a pattern or different perspectives of the same reality, an interpretation section can be incorporated. Finally, recommendations can also be included based on the interpretations.

What are the advantages of this type of registration?

The anecdotal record has a series of advantages over other types of registration. In the first place, it is a fairly simple and natural type of record to do, as long as the person is able to be objective in the description and to separate their perspective and opinion from the data that it reflects.

It is also advantageous that it allows data of events, behaviors and phenomena to be taken in the first person and from the hands of a witness of the situation, and even if subsequent observations are made, there is a continuity in the annotations in such a way that A systematized observation can be generated a posteriori.

In addition, the fact that the registration is carried out a posteriori allows the person doing it not to be in the same moment interrupting the activity to register the data, although on the other hand this can reduce the number of details that we remember from the situation.

The fact that some objectivity is required makes it easily interpretable by people outside the observation, so that if it is well done other experts can draw their own conclusions or even account and record possible subsequent events. All this makes the anecdotal records are simple, simple and very useful instruments.