Ethnographic diaries and journals: principles, practices, and dilemmas

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Although they are a familiar narrative form in many societies, diaries are an often overlooked means of collecting data in healthcare research. And yet, they are particularly well-suited to ethnographic research as they offer the opportunity to uncover and explore social, psychological and physiological processes within everyday situations and in particular contexts. Focusing on ‘solicited diaries’, the mainstay of most diary-based ethnographic research in healthcare, this chapter therefore explores the key principles which underpin their design and implementation. It then illustrates the array of possible practices available to researchers seeking to develop solicited diary approaches, and highlights a range of possible dilemmas researchers face when designing diaries and subsequently interpreting diary data. The discussion thus emphasizes that there is no single, optimal form of solicited diary; their design is contingent on the focus and goals of the research project, the study’s participants/diarists, the resources available and so forth. Yet the choices that researchers make when designing their approach will affect the quality, integrity and interpretability of the data they collect. Despite these challenges, however, the chapter argues that ethnographic diaries offer healthcare researchers an approach to undertaking research which is truly participatory.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Ethnographic Healthcare Research
EditorsPaul M.W. Hackett, Christopher M. Hayre
Place of PublicationAbingdon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780429320927
ISBN (Print)9780367336332, 9780367336349
Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2020


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