A research method that collects information by asking participants to record entries about a particular activity or experience over time in a log, diary or journal.
- To collect qualitative information about participants and to understand how their behaviours, motivations, habits or attitudes change over time.
- To investigate customer experiences as they unfold over time and across multiple touchpoints.
What you get
- A series of diary entries from each participant, which may be test, audio, video or photography.
- Possibly matched behavioural data from other sources that have the same timeline - like a fitness tracker or a social media site.
- Great for collecting information about behaviours, habits, motivations or attitudes that are expected to change over time as a product or service is repeatedly used.
- Great for reaching participants in remote areas who are too expensive to interview or visit.
- For evaluating HOW someone uses something or experiences something over time rather than WHY they choose something or WHAT they do at a given time - which can be researched better using other methods.
- Diary studies contain only self-reported entries, so for some research objectives, this may not be the most valid method and observational ethnography might be used instead.
- Reaching participants who cannot document their experiences easily for accessibility reasons.
When using this method, you really need to make sure it is the most appropriate method of answering your research questions. Dairy studies also produce a lot of data. Make sure to leave enough time for coding and analysis.
Toolkits and resources
Reviewed 29 April 2020