The experience sampling method: Its potential use in occupational therapy research

Louise Farnworth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Occupational therapists rely on being able to understand which occupations are of value to clients and also appropriate to their needs. The Experience Sampling Method (ESM) was developed as a tool to study the experience of engaging in activities in everyday life. The purpose of this paper is to report on the findings of an ESM study of a group affinal year occupational therapy students and to examine the strengths and limitations of this methodology. A modified version of an Experience Sampling Form (ESF) was used to measure flow. Of the 508 ESFs completed by the 11 participants over a one week period, 177 (31%) were found to be inflow, 51 (10%) anxiety, 104 (20%) boredom and 176 (35%) apathy. Many high flow experiences occurred while studying, usually alone and while reading and /or writing. The results indicate that ESM has the potential to be useful for describing in minutiae the patterns of an individual's daily experience. The major advantage of ESM is that it allows one to study the dynamics of emotions and other subjective states while a person engages in their normal daily occupations. The methodology has potential for use in clinical research as participants have the opportunity to describe their emotions while engaging in occupation. 1996

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalOccupational therapy international
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1996


  • Flow
  • Human occupation
  • Subjective experience

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