Anecdotal Record: What It Is And How It Is Used In Psychology And Education

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

Anecdotal record

Throughout the day, each and every one of us engages in 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 can be of great scientific interest, so it may be necessary to record them in some way.

In this sense, there are many assessment instruments and methods, both objective and subjective. One of the simplest and yet most common is direct observation, through which the occurrence of different events can be experienced and recorded throughout the time in which said observation is carried out (or afterwards).

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

The anecdotal record: what is it?

An anecdotal record is known as a type of instrument or methodology for recording behavioral information in which a set of facts, situations or phenomena that have taken place in a period of time is described in the most objective way possible. has carried out an information.

As a general rule, the anecdotal record takes the form of a report that gives an account of the conduct or behavior, interests, actions and procedures carried out by a subject or group, when these occur spontaneously, surprisingly and unexpectedly.

It is the product of direct observation, which begins the moment an unexpected event occurs that must be recorded. In other words, as its name indicates, it is the record of an anecdote.

Contrary to other types of registration, anecdotal registration is characterized by being carried out in an unplanned or unprepared manner, but rather by 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 record 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. nor interpretations of the acts. This is important, since if the data are objective they will not be biased by the beliefs and expectations of the observer himself 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 especially include the unforeseen situation, but it must also include contextual 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 education.

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

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

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

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

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

Also advantageous is the fact that it allows data on events, behaviors and phenomena to be taken in the first person and from the hands of a witness to the situation, and even if subsequent observations are made, it allows for 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 that whoever does it does not have to be at the same moment interrupting the activity to record the data, although on the other hand this may reduce the number of details that we remember from the situation.

The fact that a certain objectivity is required makes it easily interpretable by people outside the observation, so that if it is done well, other experts will be able to draw their own conclusions or even account for and record possible subsequent events. All this makes anecdotal records simple, straightforward, and highly useful tools.

Bibliographic references:

  • Casanova, M. (1998), Educational evaluation. México, SEP / Muralla (Library for teacher updating).
  • Secretary of Public Education (2013). The evaluation strategies and instruments from the formative approach. Tools for evaluation in basic education. Mexico. [On-line]. Available at:

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