- Research Methods
A Diary Study is a qualitative research method where research participants track their own use, behaviors, and perspectives with a system in a log. Study participants self-report using either a paper or digital log over time.
Steps to Conduct a Diary Study
- Define goals for the study. What long-term behavior are you studying and for how long. What data do you want to collect?
- Define the user group you want participants to come from.
- Decide on the frequency. How often do you want participants to log their responses? Every day, week, or based on specific events.
- Plan on the logistics of the diary study.
- How are participants going to give you their logs? Over email, a notebook, a mobile application?
- How are you going to give participants their tasks?
Benefits of a Diary Study
- Unmoderated: Can involve a larger participant group than moderated methods like interviews.
- Longitudinal: Diary studies happen over a longer period of time than other research methods like interviews, user interviews, and surveys. Because of this they can show changing perspectives and behaviors.
- Contextual: Because diary studies happen over time and are self-reported, they are often contextual for the user when they are interacting with the system. The participant is in their "natural" environment.
- Cost Effective: Although observational field studies will produce richer insights, diary studies can usually be cheaper while including more participants.
- Subjective Data: Since participants are self-reporting over time, diary studies produce rich, subjective data that is unlikely from other methods.