Aims To identify the challenges associated with using journaling as a method of data collection and to offer strategies for effectively managing those challenges.
Background While journaling can be used for a variety of reasons, in the context of this paper, journaling refers to the process of participants sharing thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences through writing and/or other media. Journaling is used in phenomenological research studies to record participant experiences in their natural contexts.
Data sources The findings are based on the experiences of the researchers during a qualitative study that explored the experiences of lesbian mothers and used journaling as one method of data collection.
Review methods This is a methodological paper.
Discussion Three main challenges affect journaling as a method of data collection: poor participation, feeling exposed and staying on track. Six strategies to promote participation in journaling are: coaching participants, limiting the journaling period, providing follow-up contact, promoting comfort, ensuring safety and providing clear content expectations. Each strategy is discussed and methods of implementing the strategies are offered.
Conclusion Journaling as a method of data collection has long been accepted as a valid method of accessing rich qualitative data. By acknowledging the common challenges associated with the process of journaling that are experienced by the participants, researchers employing this data collection method can promote constructive and valuable participation.
Implications for future research Further research examining participants’ experiences of journaling as a method of qualitative data collection would be useful in determining challenges, barriers and benefits of the method.