Chambers, Pat (2004) Self-indulgence or an Essential Tool? The Use of a Field Diary in Biographical Research and Narrative Analysis. In: Narrative, Memory & Identity: Theoretical and Methodological Issues. University of Huddersfield, Huddersfield, pp. 37-47.

A ‘field diary’ has long been regarded as an essential research tool for many
researchers in the social sciences. I used such a diary in a qualitative study
which employed a feminist, biographical approach to investigate the
experience of later life widowhood, to meticulously record how I managed the
process of the research, and the feelings which accompanied it. In this article I
provide examples of the way in which the use of a field diary subsequently had
an impact on both the process and the content of the research. Firstly it enabled
me to reflect on my own role and thus build into each stage of the research a
reflexive analysis, which then informed subsequent stages. Secondly, the diary
itself became a further source of data, which situated me clearly within the
research process as both participant and researcher and was subject to analysis.
Throughout the paper I critically evaluate the use of a field diary as a tool for
both the novice and the more experienced biographical researcher and pose the
question: is the use of a field diary in biographical research and narrative
analysis sheer self-indulgence OR an essential tool?

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