What Are Diary Studies all about?

Diaries (or journals) are frequently used in qualitative market research as a way of letting people conveniently and expressively convey personal details about their daily life and events to design teams.

They are ideal for collecting information from participants across time, and it samples their thoughts, feelings or behaviours at key moments throughout a day, a week or a month.

How Do Diary Studies Actually Work?

Blank diaries are given to participants in person or by mail and are often handed out in the lead-up to focus groups for respondents to complete before meeting a week or two later.

The diary should always be designed for portability and ease of use, and then an overview of the topic of interest on the front with instructions of how and when to complete entries. Mobile phone ownership and developments in research software have allowed new ways for respondents to keep and diarise this information.

The participants will typically be required to document each time they engage in a particular behaviour, encounter a product or situation, or have a certain type of interaction. Examples could be: Using a product such as a household cleaner, every time they purchase alcoholic drink etc.

Each page entry should be guided with a brief question or prompt to encourage responses, along with appropriate space for encouraging the desired length of text. If photographs/imagery is required this needs to be specified and respondents need to ensure they are included within the diary (often adding important information on the back of them for interpretation purposes).

Participants will then return their diary to us and we will perform expert analysis on the content, seeking out patterns and mind-mapping findings in detail. Diary studies are typically followed up by in-depth interview or focus groups which would be conducted to gain further clarity and detail on the results to help share and bring insights to life.

Overall a diary study is a quick and inexpensive way of obtaining real-world data about user behaviour and useful addition to other qualitative research techniques. Careful management of your target group together with studying these guidelines will enable your diary study to run smoothly and provide useful results.

For more information about this kind of research, please speak with one of the directors Tony Lewis or Charlotte Baird or Hannah Roberts.

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