User diaries are employed to capture thoughts, opinions, and feelings, thus providing excellent research material. Researcher’s absence in the process of writing a diary allows the user to share more, eventually providing unique information about himself/herself.
You will needa diary (paper, digital), and, possibly, a camera
Timeat least 1 week
People1 or more users
Difficulty3 – it is especially challenging for the participant
- you want to find information about the user, which would have been unobtainable in your presence
- you want to get to know users’ experiences in the context
- you cannot be with the user in the researched place (e.g. at home or in hospital)
Do not use when...
- you want to get a large number of opinions on a single topic (try Questionnaires instead)
- you need data in a uniform structure (although it depends on the form of the user’s diary)
- Set the form of the diary (structure, regularity of entries). User’s diary can take many forms - it can be written on paper, user’s blog, or user’s photos or videos that record his or her experiences and feelings.
- Before having users writing their diaries, try working with a diary yourself.
- Users should be explained how to work with the library and provided with the necessary tools. Arrange the means of further communication.
- Let the user collect the data and, in course of the collecting, continually ask the user in order to find out whether the process meets your expectations.
- When the time determined for data collection passes, analyze the data from users’ diaries. You can meet the users to conduct additional interviews.
Keep in mind that...
- your participants need to be selected carefully
- you need to agree with the users on everything that should be recorded in the diary, i.e. what kind of thoughts and activities are relevant for you
- a diary does not have to be a book - consider the possibility of a video diary or any other form of recording
Find out more
- Peter Hernon’s article Academic Library Directors: What Do They Do? shows how to use diary research in libraries
- Carine Lallemand’s article on the employment of diaries in UX research (with both example and template)
- in the encyclopedia Qualitative Research Methods by Lisa Given, you can find a minute description of the method