We present a new methodology, coupling between acoustic emission measurements and in situ scanning electron microscopy experiments to quantify the evolution of damage and crack initiation in single crystal nickel microcrystals. The mechanical properties are continuously monitored during the loading using dynamic measurements and signal analysis. The statistics associated with strain bursts as predicted from the loading tip displacements and the acoustic emission measurements. Statistics associated with dislocation plasticity versus those associated with crack initiation and propagation are quantified. Finally, the effect of the crystal size on the acoustic emission measurements are discussed.