Self-indulgence or an Essential Tool? The Use of a Field Diary in Biographical Research and Narrative Analysis

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Chambers, Pat (2004)
  • Publisher: University of Huddersfield
  • Subject: H1

A ‘field diary’ has long been regarded as an essential research tool for many\ud researchers in the social sciences. I used such a diary in a qualitative study\ud which employed a feminist, biographical approach to investigate the\ud experience of later life widowhood, to meticulously record how I managed the\ud process of the research, and the feelings which accompanied it. In this article I\ud provide examples of the way in which the use of a field diary subsequently had\ud an impact on both the process and the content of the research. Firstly it enabled\ud me to reflect on my own role and thus build into each stage of the research a\ud reflexive analysis, which then informed subsequent stages. Secondly, the diary\ud itself became a further source of data, which situated me clearly within the\ud research process as both participant and researcher and was subject to analysis.\ud Throughout the paper I critically evaluate the use of a field diary as a tool for\ud both the novice and the more experienced biographical researcher and pose the\ud question: is the use of a field diary in biographical research and narrative\ud analysis sheer self-indulgence OR an essential tool?
  • References (14)
    14 references, page 1 of 2

    Bernard, M., Phillips, J., Machin, L and. Harding-Davies, V. (eds) (2000) Women Ageing: changing identities, challenging myths, London, Routledge.

    Bornat, J. (1993) Life Experience, in Bernard, M. and Meade, K. (eds) op cit.

    Bryman, C. (2001) Social Research Methods, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

    Chambers, P. (2000) Widowhood in Later Life, in Bernard M. et al. (eds) op cit.

    Chambers, P. (2002a) Hidden lives: multiple narratives of later life widowhood, unpublished PhD thesis, Keele University.

    Chambers, P. (2002b) The Life Stories of Older Widows: situating later life widowhood within the life course, in Horrocks, C., Milnes, K., Roberts, B. and Robinson, D. (eds) (2002) Narrative, Memory and Life Transitions, Huddersfield, Huddersfield University Press.

    Garratt, D. and Hodkinson, P. (1998) Can There Be Criteria for Selecting Research Criteria? A Hermenteutical Analysis of an Inescapable Dilemma, Qualitative Inquiry, 4:515-39.

    Kelly, L., Burton, S. and Regan, L. (1994) Researching women's lives or studying women's oppression? Reflections on what constitutes feminist research, in Maynard, M. and Purvis, J. (1994) (eds) Researching Women's Lives From a Feminist Perspective, London, Routledge.

    Leane, M., Duggan, H. and Chambers, P. (2002) Feminist research practice: learning from older women, Education and Ageing 18, 2:35-53.

    Miller, R. (2000) Researching Life Stories and Family History, London, Sage.

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