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Developing Sherlock Holmes Observation Skills

Sherlock holmes observation skills

The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.

The quote above comes from one of the original Sherlock Holmes stories called The Hound of the Baskervilles .  If you have read any of the stories or even if you have only seen the movies or TV shows, then you already know that much of Sherlock Holmes work is about paying attention to detail.  For most people, the fascination with this character centers around the famous Sherlock Holmes observation skills.

The best Sherlock Holmes cases revolved around finding minute detail that ultimately made a difference in finding the culprit and making an arrest.  The words in the quote refer to an observation that Holmes made when Watson returned to the flat at 221B Baker Street. Holmes observes that Watson appears ‘fresh’ and deduces that he has been out to his club.  Sherlock does this by simply observing Watson’s outward appearance, looking for that small detail that gives the whole picture.

Sherlock Holmes Observation Skills In The Original Books

Time and time again throughout all the Sherlock Holmes stories and adventures,  Holmes looks for those small details that help build the bigger picture. And he made it look so easy!  Elementary!

In writing these stories when he did, Sir Conan Doyle helped to open up the field of forensic science and detective sherlock holmes observation skills work.  Doyle was certainly not the first to discover techniques such as fingerprints, sometimes also called fingermarks.  Fingerprints had already been  discovered in the 1870’s  by French anthropologist Alphonse Bertillon. And they were already in use when Doyle wrote the original Sherlock Holmes stories.

There is more than one reference throughout the stories in which Holmes talks to Watson about the use of fingerprints in detection.  By careful observation of the scene and a person’s clothing,  he could deduce and gather much valuable information.

In the book The Adventure of the Priory School,  Holmes is able to tell the difference between bike treads because he knows of 54 different types of bike treads! This eventually leads to an arrest.  Obviously a knowledge base about a subject is very important whether it be bicycle tire treads, the many types of tobacco ash (The Sign of Four ) or even something as simple as the “the dog did nothing in the night time” (Silver Blaze) referring to the dog who did not bark.

Sherlock Holmes Observation Skills on Television

Today it is very common to witness the use of Sherlock’s skills in many of the television shows.  A very popular show on TV right now is Elementary starring Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.  This show often contains references to the original Sherlock Holmes stories and many of the techniques that Sherlock Holmes would have used.

The BBC Sherlock series starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman makes great use of modern technology combined with the methods of Holmes from the original stories written by Doyle and it makes for very interesting shows.  And many of these shows where a coroner or pathologist is involved in the plot, you can see that the characters have been written in such a manner as to use Sherlock Holmes observation skills and deduction.


Sherlock: Season 1Sherlock: Season 1The Complete Sherlock HolmesThe Complete Sherlock HolmesElementary: Three Season PackElementary: Three Season Pack



Is there such a thing as a Think Like Sherlock Holmes Book ?

Are you a detective, do you enjoy sleuthing? If you are interested in improving your own observational skills you can try a Google search of  “Sherlock Holmes observation skills”.   You are going to get some very interesting sites. Now if only the original Sherlock Holmes had Google!

There are also a surprising number of books available to teach you these Sherlock Holmes  observation skills.   One that has a high rating is  Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by psychologist Maria Konnikova.    The Deduction Guide by Louise Blackwood is not as highly rated but it has incredible reviews.

Read through the information, practice using your new found skills of deduction and observation and see if you can be as successful as Sherlock Holmes.

Observation skills are a wonderful gift, one that everyone can put to use.

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