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Ecological Momentary Assessment in Mental Health Research: A Practical Introduction, with Examples in R

Ruwaard, J., Kooistra, L. and Thong, M. (2018). Ecological Momentary Assessment in Mental Health Research: A Practical Introduction, with Examples in R. Amsterdam: APH Mental Health. free access

Given known limitations of retrospective self-report questionnaires, such as recall bias and poor generalizability of assessment results to real-life situations, mental health researchers increasingly adopt alternative assessment methods. One of the promising alternatives is Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA), in which emotions and behaviors are repeatedly sampled in everyday life, through wearable electronic devices.

Conducting an EMA study, however, can be challenging. Researchers face a dazzling array of options related to the electronic wearables, outcomes selection, study design considerations, ethical and regulatory constraints, data management, statistical analysis, and study reporting. Although standards are emerging, clear guidelines for EMA research do not – at present – exist. EMA studies have unique characteristics that require specialist research skills, related to study design and statistical analysis. This manual was written to fill this gap.

The manual provides a practical introduction to EMA-research. It was written to aid beginning researchers of the Amsterdam School of Public Health (APH), who are looking for practical advice in conducting EMA studies. The manual provides an overview of EMA instruments, outcomes, methods and analytic techniques, guidelines for EMA-studies, and a catalogue of EMA research in the APH consortium.

This manual is available online at https://jruwaard.github.io/aph_ema_handbook/. Sources are available at GitHub. Please post your comments and suggestions there, or via e-mail, via jruwaard@me.com.