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Evaluating the audio-diary method in qualitative research

Iain Williamson (Division of Psychology, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)
Dawn Leeming (Division of Psychology and Counselling, University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, UK)
Steven Lyttle (School of Applied Social Sciences, De Montfort University, Leicester, UK)
Sally Johnson (Division of Psychology, University of Bradford, Bradford, UK)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 2 February 2015




Audio-diary methods are under-utilised in contemporary qualitative research. The purpose of this paper is to discuss participants and researchers’ experiences of using audio-diaries alongside semi-structured interviews to explore breastfeeding experiences in a short-term longitudinal study with 22 first-time mothers.


The authors provide a qualitative content analysis of the participants’ feedback about their experiences of the audio-diary method and supplement this with the perspectives of the research team based on fieldwork notes, memos and team discussions. The authors pay particular attention to the ways in which the data attained from diaries compared with those from the interviews.


The diaries produced were highly heterogeneous in terms of data length and quality. Participants’ experiences with the method were varied. Some found the process therapeutic and useful for reflecting upon the development of breastfeeding skills whilst negative aspects related to lack of mobility, self-consciousness and concerns about confidentiality. Researchers were positive about the audio-diary method but raised certain ethical, epistemological and methodological concerns. These include debates around the use of prompts, appropriate support for participants and the potential of the method to influence the behaviour under scrutiny. Interview and diary accounts contrasted and complemented in ways which typically enriched data analysis.

Practical implications

The authors conclude that audio-diaries are a flexible and useful tool for qualitative research especially within critical realist and phenomenological paradigms.


This appears to be the first paper to evaluate both participants and researchers’ experiences of using audio-diaries in a detailed and systematic fashion.



The study described in the paper was funded by the British Academy. The authors are also grateful to the Research Assistant, Mrs Ann King, the research participants and health professionals who assisted with recruitment to the study.


Williamson, I., Leeming, D., Lyttle, S. and Johnson, S. (2015), "Evaluating the audio-diary method in qualitative research", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 15 No. 1, pp. 20-34.



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