Using unstructured diaries for primary data collection
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Using unstructured diaries for primary data collection

Juliet Anne Thomas Programme co-ordinator MSc pre-registration nursing pathway, Edge Hill University, Ormskirk, Lancashire, UK

Aim To give a reflective account of using unstructured handwritten diaries as a method of collecting qualitative data.

Background Diaries are primarily used in research as a method of collecting qualitative data. There are some challenges associated with their use, including compliance rates. However, they can provide a rich source of meaningful data and can avoid the difficulties of participants trying to precisely recall events after some time has elapsed.

Data sources The author used unstructured handwritten diaries as her primary method of collecting data during her grounded theory doctoral study, when she examined the professional socialisation of nursing students. Over two years, 26 participants selected from four consecutive recruited groups of nursing students volunteered to take part in the study and were asked to keep a daily diary throughout their first five weeks of clinical experience.

Review methods When using open-ended research questions, grounded theory’s pragmatic approach permits the examination of processes thereby creating conceptual interpretive understanding of data.

Discussion A wealth of rich, detailed data was obtained from the diaries that permitted the development of new theories regarding the effects early clinical experiences have on nursing students’ professional socialisation.

Conclusion Diaries were found to provide insightful in-depth qualitative data in a resource-friendly manner.

Implications for research/practice Nurse researchers should consider using diaries as an alternative to more commonly used approaches to collecting qualitative data.

Nurse Researcher. 22, 5, 25-29. doi: 10.7748/nr.22.5.25.e1322

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review and checked using antiplagiarism software

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 27 June 2014

Accepted: 11 November 2014

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