The How, Why and What of Mobile Diaries for Qualitative Research

Published 14 Apr 2014 2 minute read

Online qual
Mobile Ethnography


If you are a researcher, chances are you will have run many diary / journalling exercises with participants as a way to get to know them prior to conducting some focus groups. It’s one of the pre-eminent mobile qualitative research methods and still to this day delivers some great insight into people's everyday lives.

I’m betting that if you’ve run traditional paper-based diaries then you’ll of cursed the amount of time and effort they take to prepare. Designing the structure, laying it out, printing and distributing them, and all this after after negotiations with your client to obtain their approval.

All this points towards a move to doing diaries online, and with good reason. By moving away from traditional pen and paper to deploying online qual research techniques using online technology such as that provided by Further, you will:

  • Remove the headaches (and cost) of posting, printing and distributing
  • Give your participants the chance to share pictures, video and text more intuitively, in the same way they do when talking to their friends and networks online
  • Be able to review and moderate responses in near real-time
  • Start analysing the data collected from the moment it is shared
  • Be more productive in your analysis methods
  • Get closer to consumers’ everyday lives

Getting emotional

Online diaries as a mobile qualitative research method allows the researcher to gather more emotional response to moments and experiences. By composing and framing your research in a different way - making it an activity rather than simply asking a question - participants will share the context of what is occurring (i.e where they are and why, who they are with etc) and record the emotion of the moment, how they feel.

This type of data is very difficult to capture through traditional paper diaries as the pen and paper might not be with the respondent at that moment, unlike a mobile phone which is always in pocket or hand.

Hard to reach places

We all move around a lot, be it in the home, on our way to work or away on holiday. So to keep an accurate diary of these moments and events requires a data capture method that can go with the participant no matter where they are. Mobile diaries are effectively with the participant at all times. They can be in-store, socialising with friends or at the sports ground. Nowhere is out of bounds or out of reach for the mobile diary.

Moving from private to shared

Traditional pen and paper diaries are conducted in isolation. Participants won't see what anyone else has shared. This all changes with mobile, with the ability to share and socialise responses giving the ability to spark discussion, debate and ideas in an instant. Participants need to be made aware of this data visibility, but when handled well the results can outstrip expectations. What's more, it provides participants the chance to meet and bond ahead of any focus groups you may be planning, which in turn will enhance the quality of data you capture.

If you’d like to find out more about mobile diaries and how Further's software can get you to where consumers book a demo or schedule a discovery call below.

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