Paper or plastic? Data equivalence in paper and electronic diaries

Psychol Methods. 2006 Mar;11(1):87-105. doi: 10.1037/1082-989X.11.1.87.


Concern has been raised about the lack of participant compliance in diary studies that use paper-and-pencil as opposed to electronic formats. Three studies explored the magnitude of compliance problems and their effects on data quality. Study 1 used random signals to elicit diary reports and found close matches to self-reported completion times, matches that could not plausibly have been fabricated. Studies 2 and 3 examined the psychometric and statistical equivalence of data obtained with paper versus electronic formats. With minor exceptions, both methods yielded data that were equivalent psychometrically and in patterns of findings. These results serve to at least partially mollify concern about the validity of paper diary methods.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Bias
  • Computers, Handheld / statistics & numerical data*
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Male
  • Mathematical Computing*
  • Medical Records / statistics & numerical data*
  • Paper*
  • Patient Compliance / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Self-Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Writing*