Method Overview

Diary Study

Intensive longitudinal research for fine-grained empirical evidence​. Capture temporal dynamics without intense field studies. Economical way to collect in-depth, contextual, longitudinal data

Exploratory method
Suggested Time

Preparation & Analysis: 7 days
Recruiting & Screening: 3-5 days
Study time: few days to several months, (depending on the study topic)​

Level of UX Expertise



Briefing materials, product to be tested (if applicable), diary template (if structured), logging software or tool, participation incentives​


Typically 10 to 15 participants (The number depends on your research question), research & design team​

Nice to have
This method might be important for some innovations only


In a Diary Study, data is self-reported by participants over a longer period of time. During the study, participants are asked to keep a diary about specific activities, thoughts, and/or experiences.​


In a Diary Study, typically you involve subject matter experts, and a design team that takes up the results and integrates them in your further innovation development process.​


Diary Studies can surface unknown topics and phenomena and thus are a great exploratory research tool. In the evaluative phase, they can be used to understand user interactions with a prototype or fully developed service over time.​

How much time

Preparation, recruiting and briefing for diary studies is time-intense (10 days at least). During the logging time you need to stay in contact with the participants (to keep up engagement and make sure the task is done correctly). Finally, you’ll need a few days for the analysis of your data, depending on the amount of data and your data analysis skills.​


Diary Studies are used to understand ​

  • Behavior that happens sporadically or unplanned and is thus hard to observe, or ​
  • Behavior that is part of a series of actions that take place over a long time, or ​
  • When the research aims to understand change over time, or​
  • When there is reason to fear influencing of behaviors when observers come in, or with sensitive population that cannot be directly observed.​

Why it’s useful

Minimally intrusive, capture in-context, longitudinal data​
Efficient: can be done with 20 or more participants simultaneously​
No self-reporting bias​
Can replace expensive field studies​

Potential challenges

Requires time and dedication from participants​
Preparing materials and diary template can be time-intensive​
Generates a lot of qualitative data, easy to get lost on potential clues. Needs a clear research question​!

Is this for you?

Get step-by-step guidance, expert tips and best practice examples for planning and conducting insightful Diary Studies.

image source: ixd@Pratt

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