Journal diaries are useful in reflecting and reporting online about one’s everyday life. From those participants who complete the questionnaire a group of 20 students who are all EFL students will be the main group in the research. The participants will each keep a monthly journal documenting the different types of venues they visit and identifying the language and the percentage of use during their time there. The journals will also ask for students attitudes towards the various activities experienced. (Lincoln and Guba: 1985:327) indicate three main types of item that might be included in a journal:
- A daily schedule, including practical matters, e.g. logistics;
- A personal diary, for reflection, speculation, and catharsis;
- Notes on and a log of methodology.
The diaries will allow development of a triangular relationship between the diarist, the diary, and the researcher. The data collected from these personal journals will be important as it reflects the real and actual interaction between the participants and the culture of the host country. In the context of a quantitative evaluation, a diary would be an individual’s record of observations, events and behaviour (of themselves or others) in a structured format that provides a temporal dimension to the data.
In the context of a qualitative approach, the individual’s diary may be structured in some way to record the temporal dimension to the data, but will rely more on free text entries, or may even be a video or audio diary about their interpretations, feelings, and perceptions etc. of their experiences. I will choose the most suitable form of the journal diary, which could be a paper-based or web-based standard proforma to be completed on a daily basis or any time a particular observation or event is experienced. Some of the reasons that I am going to use the journal diaries are because they will help me:
- To collect information about behaviour that cannot be easily observed (e.g. private study.
- To develop insight into the participants’ interpretations that is not easily accessible by methods that involve interaction with them.
- To collect information about participants’ observations, thoughts and actions with the aim of exploring the possible relationship between these and how this is changing with time.
- To record the evaluator’s thoughts and influences during the inquiry process, particularly useful in the context of action research.
The journal diaries ensure that the study abroad students reflexively report their experiences, thoughts and feelings and their interpretations of these and their interaction with the culture and language of the host country. Diary keeping will also help participant’s record occurrences of observations, actions and events over a period of time. The journal diaries are an important source of data in my study. Additional data from the diaries could be collected at the end of the process by exploring with participants in various ways which will help me know:
How they felt about completing the diary.
What they learnt from participating.
Issues that may have affected how they completed it.
How their approach to learning or teaching changed as a consequence of completing the diary.
- The online version of diaries has the advantage of extra features that pen-and-paper diaries lack. The participants may use the online medium to add hyperlinks to music videos mirroring their current emotional situations, upload pictures showing pieces of their everyday lives, and change the interface to adjust it to their aesthetic needs. This data is going to be used in analysis and will help understand the level of interaction the study abroad students have the culture of the local country.
- Diaries can be more useful than other methods of data collection for collecting information about the sequencing of activities and time spent on different activities by different participants.
- Keeping a journal diary in which participants record their thoughts and feelings may help participants to understand their own learning processes. This applies not only to students but also to staff involved in the change to L&T being evaluated, who may learn about their own practice.
- Data collection requires little of the data collector’s time, which is adequately provided by the journal diaries.
- The recording of activity in the journal diary will help in knowing the activities that most of the participants engage, which in turn help analysing the level of immersion of different participants.
- Online journal diaries enable the participants to use emoticons to express certain feelings and emotional conditions. A student may add an emoticon after nearly every paragraph. In this way, online diaries could also serve as a way to analyze evolving language and sign usage.
- Some diaries are open-ended in the sense that participants are not limited to a certain number of words per entry but could freely expand on topics of interest and freely add external material. This leads to an increase in the volume of data collected and hence more subject of study. Diaries are characterized by “stability and motion” (Serfaty, 2004, p. 30).
- The degree of familiarity with taking a reflexive approach may vary between academic disciplines, and also between different levels of study. Some participants may require more guidance than others on how to approach keeping a journal diary and its contribution to the process of data collection.
- Keeping a journal diary is resource intensive for the participants involved in the process, and incentives may be needed to encourage participation. This is an extra cost in the project budget which could be evaded by use of another alternative method.
- The time delay between observations, behaviour, attitude and completion of the diary, may mean that participant cannot remember much about an experience in interaction process or their reaction to it. (Symon, G. 2004) “Qualitative Research Diaries”, in Cassell, C, and Symon, G. Eds (2004) Essential Guide to Qualitative Methods in Organisational Research.
- The journal diaries have the problem of transparency. The answers given by the participants may be wrong since the respondent has time to manipulate his answer and end up writing the information that only portrays positive him or her positively.
- Another weakness is that participants may lose motivation in keeping the journal diaries since they require participation over a long period of time, resulting in high drop-out rates, or less informative or less accurate data towards the end of the process.
- Also, data analysis may be resource-intensive depending on the format of the journal diary. A video or an audio journal will require more resources when analysing and evaluating the data.
- Some journals contain an exhaustive list may make the task appear too difficult to complete. This reduces the motivation that the participants have resulted in few respondents and hence unreliable data.
- It is capital intensive. An added expense is incurred from necessary periodic email or telephone reminders that are needed to find out how participants are progressing and to avoid them dropping out.
- Insecurity is also a weakness of journals, especially online diaries. In several cases, where the participants post pictures of themselves and friends or their homes. This kind of material can be used only under the condition that confidentiality is continuously secure for those directly as well as indirectly involved.
- Digital fatigue in cases of online journal diaries. Participants may be affected physically by the long time spent in front of their computers typing. (Sudweeks and Simoff :1999) have argued that computer-mediated communication is affected by information and processing overload, which could lead to digital fatigue and avoidance of additional computer-mediated work in the form of writing a diary.
In order to minimize these problems associated with journal diaries explained above, I will put more efforts in strategies that will help eradicated any potential threat or problem and also engage in activities that help solve the current problems.
First, I will come up with solicited, open-ended journal diaries which will provide me with the opportunity to “get close” to the everyday lives of the participants and the periodical form supports the development of an in-depth relationship with the diary.
I will also regularly contact the participants through phone calls and emails to check on their progress in completing the journal diary. This will minimize the number of drop out cases of the respondents.
I will emphasize and create awareness of the online journal diary due to its various advantages. One is because it will help me keep in contact with the diarist and to keep track of changes and writing intervals.
To avoid ambiguity, I will use the most common diary design- protocol, in which participants answer a series of questions about their experiences and feelings at the same time each day. Ambiguity may lead to reduced or decline in motivation from potential participants