Qualitative researchers choose diary methods for many good reasons. When participants record their observations or perceptions in the moment, we learn something different about their experiences than might be gained from other methods. Sometimes private reflections are more candid, and participants might feel more able to express themselves in a diary than in an interview.
Of course, diary methods are predicated on the participant’s willingness to follow through. Expecting someone to take the time to write, in a time frame the researcher determines, can be problematic. Modern diary researchers are using a variety of approaches to overcome such obstacles, including using apps and technologies, or combining creative and written methods.
Here are a few open access articles that illustrate the potential for diary methods.
New thinking on traditional diary methods:
- Arcimowicz, B., Cantarero, K., & Soroko, E. (2015). Motivation and consequences of lying. a qualitative analysis of everyday lying. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 16(3).
- Bolger, N., Davis, A., & Rafaeli, E. (2003). Diary methods: Capturing life as it is lived. Annual Review of Psychology, 54(1), 579-616. doi:10.1146/annurev.psych.54.101601.145030
- Engin, M. (2011). Research diary: A tool for scaffolding. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 10(3), 296-306. doi:10.1177/160940691101000308
- Kenten, C. (2010).Narrating oneself: Reflections on the use of solicited diaries with diary interviews. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 11(2). doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.
Diary methods with apps or other digital tools:
- RMF Highlight: Qualitative Diary Apps
- Buchwald, D., Schantz-Laursen, B., & Delmar, C. (2009). Video diary data collection in research with children: An alternative method. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(1), 12-20. doi:10.1177/160940690900800102
- Gibson, B. E. (2005). Co-producing video diaries: the presence of the “absent” researcher. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 4(4), 34-43. doi:10.1177/160940690500400403
- Kaun, A. (2010). Open-ended online diaries: Capturing life as it is narrated. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 9(2), 133-148. doi:10.1177/160940691000900202
- McHugh, B., Wisniewski, P., Rosson, M. B., Xu, H., & Carroll, J. M. (2017). Most teens ounce back: Using diary methods to examine how quickly teens recover from episodic online risk. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 1, Article 76. doi:10.1145/3134711
Multimodal studies that include diary methods:
- Gibson, B. E., Mistry, B., Smith, B., Yoshida, K. K., Abbott, D., Lindsay, S., & Hamdani, Y. (2013). The integrated use of audio diaries, photography, and interviews in research with disabled young men. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 12(1), 382-402. doi:10.1177/160940691301200118
- Rania, N., Migliorini, L., Rebora, S., & Cardinali, P. (2015). Daily family routines of Italian and Ecuadorian immigrant mothers in everyday life: A qualitative approach using diaries and interviews. SAGE Open, 5(4), 2158244015609411. doi:10.1177/2158244015609411
Want to learn more about how to design studies that use diary methods? Here is a Diary Methods Reading List, with links to e-books, articles, cases, and videos. Find them on SAGE Research Methods. No library access? Explore SAGE Research Methods with a free trial.