respect logoDiary Methods

Primary Reference Source

Kirakowski, J and Corbett, M (1990) Effective Methodology for the Study of HCI. North Holland Elsevier.

Summary Description

Diary methods require the informants to record activities they are engaged in throughout a normal day. The structure of diaries varies from unstructured or open ended where the informant writes in with his own words, to highly structured tick-box questionnaires. The technology involved ranges from paper and pencil based techniques, to the use of tape and video diaries, to computerised on-line questionnaires administered by computer. Providing users with a portable cassette voice recorder and asking them to ‘make a note’ of their experiences with whatever is the focus of the diary study is a useful way of capturing the users’ interest and to get on-the-spot notations. The data usually has to be content analysed. Kirakowski & Corbett give an account of this process.

Typical Application Areas

They can be used during the initial phases of design, to provide a picture of the activities the user group engage in. The frequency, duration and difficulty of performing tasks can be recorded in order to establish an understanding of the users difficulties and the context wherein a technical aid will be introduced. They can also be used to provide design feedback, or evaluate products.


The methods demands some effort from the users. If structured methods are used, as with questionnaires, it can be difficult to interpret results, due to lack of context information. A lot of data can be collected, this may lead to a lot of work to analyse the information. The method relies on the informants ability and motivation for filling in the information.


Provides information that may be forgotten in an interview, or by means of other methods. Involves the users in an active manner. Provides an understanding of the activities the users engage in. The method is useful to obtain real life measures about the activities and technology the users are surrounded by.

Costs of Use

Relatively low cost. May take some time to analyse results, especially when an informal approach is used. A structured diary or computer based inquiry will demand some resources for preparation.

Suitability for Telematics Engineering

Provides vital information about the users, tasks and environment in an efficient and fluid way.

[Go to Methods Table (by Lifecycle)] [Go to Methods Table (by Special Needs)] [top of page]