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Solicited diary methods

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Abstract

To date, solicited diaries have been relatively neglected as a research method within the health and social sciences. Yet, the gathering of chronologically organized diary data can provide unique insights into the life-worlds inhabited by individuals; their experiences, actions, behaviors, and emotions and how these are played out across time and space. Solicited diaries enable informants to actively participate in both recording and reflecting (either in written, oral, or visual formats) on their own data. While inevitably these data are reflected upon with a certain research agenda in mind, most qualitative diary methods allow space and time for diarists to depict their own priorities. As such, this research technique affords participants greater control of the data, enabling individuals to not only consider their responses but reveal as little or as much as they feel willing to do so. Solicited diary methods can be used to gather both qualitative and quantitative data, but in this chapter we focus specifically on the use of qualitative diary techniques. We address the methodological underpinnings of these approaches and the contribution they can make to the study of different questions, phenomena, and social problems. We also consider the strengths and limitations of solicited diary methods including debate about the extent to which they are viable techniques for undertaking research with all groups and individuals. Finally, we discuss how the rise of digital technologies is opening up new and exciting approaches for solicited diary techniques, the possibilities for which are only newly being explored.