Week 5 – Researching Media in Everyday Life

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I believe the main argument being made in Corti’s “Using Diaries in Social Research” is the importance of structure when undertaking social research and developing a social research method. Corti explains the importance of structure throughout the whole research process (for example: the diary interview process), through to the detailed design of the actual ‘tomorrow’ diary to create an accurate record of events.

Corti notes: “The amount of work required to process a diary depends largely on how structured it is…a well designed diary with coherent precoding system should cut down on the degree of editing and coding”. Further, “if the diary is unstructured, intensive editing and coding will push up the costs”. The structured approach also reduces the need for archiving of diary data as “little [resources] is availble…for secondary analysis”. 

I attempted to develop a structured approach when developing my diary for Assignment 2 and incorporated a number of aspects highlighted by Corti such as:  a) a clear set of instructions; b)clearly ruled up and headlined pages; c) a model example of a completed diary; d) explanations of the units of observation such as content/duration etc; e)appropriate terminology to best reflect the study e.g. media types included tv, phone (landline/mobile), newspaper, internet, video, dvd; and f) a space for the participant to reflect on what they have observed throughout the diary process. This structured diary is then supported by a final face to face interview which as Corti notes is “used to check the completeness of the recorded entries” , stressing its importance and enhancing the quality of the interview process. 

I have completed a number of diaries before. Firstly, I completed a diet and exercise diary and there was a clear structure requiring me to fill in volumes, times etc. It was interesting to observe how as a result of needing to keep a diary my behaviour changed. Corti notes this tendancy for reporting errors and labels this as “conditioning”. I found myself exercising more, and eating healthier food types in an effort to produce the results which I thought were expected from the diary keeping. 

Secondly, I was required to complete a work experience diary and found myself writing down entires at the end of the day or week rather than as the events occured. However, a review of our diaries required me to keep up to date and accurate with the entires. Corti notes the importance of this “intermediate visit” in assisting in “preserving good diary keeping to the end of the period.”

From this reading and from personal experience, the structure of a diary is key to ensuring the collection of accurate data and effective data analysis.

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