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J Psychosom Res. 2007 May;62(5):553-61.

Are electronic diaries useful for symptoms research? A systematic review.

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  • 1Division of Community Health Sciences, General Practice Section, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom. chris.burton@ed.ac.uk



The objective of this study was to evaluate electronic diaries as a tool for investigating associations between physical symptoms and psychological variables.


A qualitative systematic review of electronic diary studies in pain and symptoms research was performed.


Studies of electronic diary use report good acceptability and accuracy of data recording. A descriptive classification of the findings of electronic diary studies yielded five categories: experience, recording data when symptoms were present; interaction, testing the relationship between variables at different levels; sequential, observing associations at different time lags; process, recording possible mediating constructs such as catastrophization and self-efficacy; and intervention, recording during treatment to identify trends. Most data from diary studies suggest relatively weak associations between variables.


Electronic diaries are a potentially valuable tool for psychosomatic research. We suggest further possibilities for their use.

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