Handbooks of Research Methods in Management series
Edited by Keith Townsend, Rebecca Loudoun and David Lewin
Chapter 14: Using qualitative diaries to uncover the complexities of daily experiences
Investigating human beings, and subsequently strategies for managing people, is a somewhat difficult endeavour due to the fact that their lives, thoughts, feelings and decisions are infinitely complex. Authors across the human resource management (HRM) field have raised concerns that the most frequently used methods cannot adequately capture the complexity of the numerous interactions that are essential to our understanding of HRM (for example, Guest, 2011; Kiessling and Harvey, 2005). The everyday realities of people take place in an uncertain and changeable world where moods, experiences and behaviours fluctuate daily, or perhaps more frequently (Ohly et al., 2010). It is this daily element that many frequently used data collection methods are less able to capture (Radcliffe, 2013). This chapter aims to highlight the importance of capturing, and understanding, complex daily practices and experiences and, therefore, of more HRM researchers considering the use of qualitative research diaries; a method that has the ability to capture this complexity and dynamism. The chapter begins by providing an overview of research diaries and how they can be utilised before introducing my own qualitative diary study, which explored how people deal with daily work–life conflict. It then continues by addressing some of the key challenges of utilising qualitative research diaries, whilst also providing some practical considerations with regards to dealing with these challenges. Additionally, it highlights the important benefits that can be achieved by persevering with this approach. In order to more effectively illustrate these practical issues and benefits, I have made reference to my own experiences of using qualitative diaries throughout. Finally, the chapter concludes by highlighting how this methodological approach can help move HRM research forward by gaining fresh and original insights into important issues that affect people in the workplace on a daily basis. It is hoped that this will encourage other HRM researchers to take on the challenges of this rich methodological approach in order to reap the research rewards.
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