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Resource Methods Toolkit wp6-tuni Published: 12 May 2022

Media diary

Media diaries belong to the narrative form of qualitative data collection. It can take written, visual, audio, or multimodal digital formats, for example, via mobile phones or on paper (e.g., Lev-On, Lowenstein-Barkai, 2019). Narratives like the media diary form a link to users’ everyday practices with digital media in research which usually employs several methods. Media diaries are mostly used in the context of mixed methods research. Still, it can also be used as the only method in an ethnographic study (Berg, 2012).

Several authors (e.g., Berg, 2012; Hyers, 2018) suggest careful planning and supervision of participants (youth, families) regarding how to implement the diary when collecting the data in the study.

Media diaries provide a subjective contextual understanding of user habits, behaviours, experiences, and engagement with digital media to understand social and personal transitions in young people’s lives. Central to the diary is that it makes the personal visible along with the social, and it makes it possible to focus on time and the time periods of the users (Hyers, 2018). Media diaries provide constructive knowledge, being part of personal narrations, not straight-forward lived life. Thus, the knowledge includes facts and fiction, which should be considered in the methodological evaluation.

Pros

  • provide information about children’s, youth’s, and families’ communicative relationships and practices on an everyday basis

  • can be applied to several kinds of studies depending on the number of cases and the focus of the research

  • diary models are varied and accessible online 

Cons

  • competence of the diary is based on the motivation and skills of the participant in the study.

  • youth and families should be supervised and equipped with tools for this method.

  • subjective information, which should mostly be connected to other methods as a mixed methods approach.





  1. Azi Lev-On, Hila Lowenstein-Barkai (2019) “Viewing diaries in an age of new media: An exploratory analysis of mobile phone app diaries versus paper diaries.” Methodological Innovations, Volume: 12 Issue: 1, https://doi.org/10.1177/2059799119844442

  2. Berg, M. (2017) “Qualitative media diaries: An instrument for doing research from a mobile media ethnographic perspective.” Interactions Studies in Communication & Culture 3(1):71-89. https://doi.org/10.1386/iscc.3.1.71_1

  3. Hyers, Lauri L. (2018) Diary Methods: Understanding Qualitative Research. Oxford University Press.

  4. Qutteina, Y., Hallez, L., Mennes, N., De Backer, C., Smits, T. (2019) “What Do Adolescents See on Social Media? A Diary Study of Food Marketing Images on Social Media. “ Front. Psychol., Vol.10, p.2637-2637, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02637

  5. Worth, N., (2017) “Making Use of Audio Diaries in Research with Young People: Examining Narrative, Participation and Audience.” Sociological Research Online (SRO), 14: 4, page(s): 77-87 https://doi.org/10.5153/sro.1967

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Authors

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Team co-Leader, CO:RE at TUNI

Sirkku Kotilainen

Sirkku Kotilainen, PhD, is a professor in Communication Sciences at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication Sciences of Tampere University (FI). She has over 20 years of experience in research topics mainly covering digital literacies and media education among children and youth, teacher’s media competencies and media education in youth work. More recently, her research has focused on promoting media education among at-risk youth and, methodological developments in co-research with young people as empirical experts in their uses of online media.

Tampere University
Tampere University
CO:RE at TUNI
Methods

The team at the Faculty of Information Technology and Communication of TUNI identifies, develops and provides access to resources on qualitative, quantitative and mixed research methods together with evaluating their validity in research practice.

These resources are collated in the CO:RE methods toolkit that cross-reference resources from the evidence base, the compass for research ethics, and the theory toolkit, to give users tools to apply to their individual research contexts.

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