Children's Research Centre
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Research with and by Children and Young People

Diaries and life stories

Championing diaries and life stories

Diaries and the use of life stories can be stand alone as valuable sources of data or they can be used to support semi structured and unstructured interviews.  These forms of data collection are used to explore topics over a period of time.

Girl writing a diary
Audio Diary Recording

Life story books are often used for supportive or therapeutic purposes to help probe issues in people’s lives and reveal new understandings of previous experiences which might have occurred some time before. Diaries are started with the start of the research and deal with topics from that point forwards. Both can also be used as a source of data about everyday experiences or as a valuable prompt in recalling events during an interview.

Diaries and life stories can be prepared in a number of different forms. Video and audio diaries/life stories can be easily recorded using accessible technology e.g. mobile phones, iPads and other recording devices with little training or experience. This means that even young children can work independently without the supervision of adults getting in the way of their data collection. Alternatively, diaries and life story books can be prepared in combinations of writing or pictoral forms depending on the interests of the children and young people involved.

Research studies using participatory activities

Challenges of diaries and life stories

Diaries and life stories often focus upon topics that reveal personal information. The challenges here can be around privacy and making sure that a child or young person’s consent to use this personal information is fully informed. Only specially trained practitioners should use life stories for therapeutic or support purposes.

Life stories also rely on participants’ ability to recall and the clarity of their memories of events. Challenges of using diaries can be the motivation for people to maintain diaries over an extended period of time.

Audio Diary Recording

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