Development and evaluation of a self-recording diary for measuring job behavior

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1977

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Abstract

The collection of data from self-recording diaries offers an economical and convenient approach for descriptive research in organizations. This approach can provide much-needed data describing job behavior. The objectives of this study were: (a) to develop activity categories which were unambiguous to users, and to which they could reliably assign their work activity; (b) to use the self-recording diary to obtain descriptions of the job activities of two independent groups of participants over spans of eight to nine weeks, with a focus on expenditure of time in various activities; (c) to gather unobtrusive measures from independent data classes to assess the accuracy of diary recording for describing job behavior; and (d) to get a clearer perspective on the generalizability of the diary technique to other work groups and settings, including possible limitations and problems. Diaries were developed and diary data collected for two groups (Nursing staff and Physical Therapy staff) in a rehabilitation hospital. The first phase for each group consisted of meetings with participants to generate useful categories, and a behavioral incident sorting task to develop a set of unambiguous activity categories for the diary. The second phase involved collection of descriptive data using diary recording on a sampling basis for eight to nine weeks. Each participant completed a diary of activities as they occurred for a three or four hour segment of one day of a week. A participant filled out one sheet for each episode of job activity and noted (a) start and stop times, (b) the appropriate activity category, (c) others involved in the activity, and (d) the location. The participation and involvement of all diary users was emphasized throughout the research. Several unobtrusive measures were gathered to assess the accuracy of diary completion. Time sample checks were gathered over the course of the study and compared to diary data. These samples consisted of independent observations of diary users. Second, overlaps of diaries with observational protocols generated by a research team conducting a longitudinal analysis of patient behavior were compared. The third source of comparison data emerged from the overlapping diaries of participants in the same activity. Per cent agreement was calculated for all of the comparisons between diary data and the other measures. The study produced sets of categories for each group which were judged to be acceptable as a result of the sorting procedures. The collection of diaries produced a large quantity of descriptive data pertaining to the job behavior of participants. Results of the accuracy assessment indicated that participants recorded their job activities with an acceptable degree of accuracy. Replication of the entire approach with the two separate groups suggests that this particular diary method can be used successfully to describe job behavior in other kinds of work groups.

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