Diary Study

A diary study asks participants to keep a diary over a period of time to record different aspects of a service or experience. Diary studies record the experience of a service for a longer period of time than is practical for site-visits and allows teams to get a better sense of day-to-day events, activities and environments. Participants can be prompted by email or text messages on a regular basis as a reminder to record their experiences and can be recorded through written responses, photos, videos, or social media. The diary is then reviewed with the participants at the end of the study during an interview.


  • Determine the study length (2-3 weeks is recommended)
  • Recruit participants
  • Conduct a brief orientation about the study to confirm participation and answer any questions the participants might have.
  • Every two or three days, prompt participants for the kind of things to record in their diary responses. Use email or text messages to share prompts. For example, "Tell us about the conversations you had today with your neighbours."
  • Have participants share diary responses by email, leaving voicemails, sharing social media, blogging, or in a notebook.
  • At the end of the study review the diary with the participant through an interview and have them explain it in more detail.


  • Expect 20-30% of participants to drop out, so recruit more than you need for your final participants.
  • Use a weighted sliding incentive. If a participant drops out, they will receive a partial stipend instead of the full amount. 
  • Capture diary entries in a sharable format so you can receive entries in real time. This will allow your team to construct the entries during the study rather than all at once at the end.