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autobiographical memory retrieval, event history calendars, nursing research, retrospective data collection



  1. Martyn, Kristy K.
  2. Belli, Robert F.


Background: Event history calendars are used to collect retrospective data about events and life transitions over short and long periods of time. Event history calendars are highly structured, but flexible, approaches to interviewing respondents about past events that use their own past experiences as cues to remembering. Event history calendars incorporate autobiographical memory retrieval mechanisms to assist respondents in reconstructing past events and experiences accurately and completely.


Approach: A sample event history calendar and experiences from an ongoing study of adolescent risk behavior are described to illustrate event history calendar methodology application in nursing research. Event history calendar design, recording, interviewing, and interviewer training descriptions are included.


Discussion: Event history calendars have been used extensively for retrospective data collection of occurrence, timing, and sequencing of a variety of life events in population studies, psychology, and sociology research, but not in nursing research. Because event history calendars improve recollection of complex sequences of personal events, they would be ideal for retrospective data collection in quantitative and qualitative nursing studies. Nursing expertise in history-taking make this a natural method of choice for retrospective data collection and as a means of stimulating communication during interviewing.