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date: 13 December 2017

Daily Diary Designs in Lifespan Developmental Methodology

This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Psychology. Please check back later for the full article.

Daily diary designs allow researchers to examine processes that change together on a daily basis, often in a naturalistic setting. By studying within-person covariation between daily processes, one can more precisely establish the short-term effects and temporal ordering of concrete daily experiences. Additionally, the daily diary design reduces retrospective recall bias because participants are asked to recall events that occurred over the previous 24-hour period as opposed to a week or even a year. Therefore, a more accurate picture of individuals’ daily lives can be captured with this design. When conclusions are drawn between people about the relationship between the predictors and outcomes, the covariation that occurs within people through time is lost. In a within-person design, conclusions can be made about the simultaneous effects of within-person covariation as well as between-person differences. This is especially important when many interindividual differences (e.g., traits) may exist in within-person relationships (e.g., states).

Daily diary research can take many forms. Previous studies have called participants on the telephone to respond to interview questions each day for a series of consecutive days, allowing for quantitative as well as qualitative data collection. Diary research can also be conducted with printed paper questionnaires, divided into daily booklets where participants mail back each daily booklet at the end of the day or entire study period. Online surveys that can be completed on a computer or mobile device allow the researcher to know the specific day and time that the survey was completed while minimizing direct involvement with the collection of each daily survey. There are many opportunities for lifespan developmental researchers to adopt daily diary designs across a variety of implementation platforms to address questions of important daily processes.