Academic journal article Indo - Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

Process Diary as Methodological Approach in Longitudinal Phenomenological Research

Academic journal article Indo - Pacific Journal of Phenomenology

Process Diary as Methodological Approach in Longitudinal Phenomenological Research

Article excerpt


This article focuses on the process diary as a qualitative instrument in phenomenological research. The first part of the article provides a brief historical review on the use of diaries in social and health research. The second part of the article presents an example of how the process diary may be used based on the profile of a participant in the study "Aging with Cerebral Palsy". The third part of the article deals with the challenges of analyzing the data provided by process diaries and discusses the strengths and weaknesses of this method. The article concludes with a brief discussion concerning the kinds of situations where the process diary is a suitable research instrument. This section of the article also touches upon the ethical challenges involved in using the process diary in longitudinal phenomenological research.

The use of diaries in sociological research has become more widespread since the initial development of this method in the mid-twentieth century (Madge, 1953). Sociological studies in recent decades have frequently made use of unsolicited diaries and diaries specifically requested by researchers (Jones, 2000; Oppenheim, 1966). As a research tool, diaries have often been employed to provide insight into personal phenomena that are difficult to access through other methods (Zimmerman & Wieder, 1977). Although diaries have been used as research instruments by both researchers and informants (Burgess, 1981) this article focuses only on the use of diaries by informants.

There are advantages and disadvantages to using this instrument. In addition, the researcher's role is somewhat different in diary research than when performing interviews or engaging in other forms of data collection. This article raises a practical question concerning when the process diary method should be used.

Keeping a diary is a well-known practice that has a long history in the West. It is an activity often recommended as a way of promoting self-awareness and self-reflection. In organizational and industrial research, diaries have been used as record-keeping devices and as aids for promoting awareness and understanding of day to day work processes. Within the research context the use of diaries as research instruments can potentially complement and, in some cases, replace more traditional techniques of data collection. Interviews and observational techniques are well-known ways of gathering data, especially in in-depth qualitative phenomenological research. However, these methods are often expensive and timeconsuming.

In a number of instances, ethical and practical considerations prevent researchers from undertaking observations or engaging informants in face-to-face interviews. For example, if a researcher wants to learn more about grieving processes, it would be both extremely insensitive and intrusive as well as socially unacceptable to request access to a grieving family in order to make observations or to conduct interviews immediately after the loss of a loved one. In addition, important information often goes undetected in interviewing processes and, importantly, observational research is confined to what is visible. Frequently, the researcher is at a loss to know what questions to ask. Informants can also be poor sources of information because they may overlook or forget to tell researchers about important matters.

In such cases, a diary may furnish the researcher with an improved way of collecting important data. A diary often provides more information than an interview or an observation. A possible reason for this relates to one of the major strengths of the diary, which is that it is often much easier to write about certain things than it is to speak about them (Bedwell, McGowan, & Lavender, 2012; Corti, 1993). Additionally, in some key areas of social life, diaries have been shown to be extremely effective in providing insight into various processes, especially ones tending to develop slowly over time (Lee, 1993; Richardson, 1994), such as the unfolding of adaptation processes (Furness & Garrud, 2010). …

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