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USING DOCUMENTS

USING DOCUMENTS

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USING DOCUMENTS

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  1. USING DOCUMENTS Chapter 12

  2. Introduction • As well as using interviews and fieldwork to gather data, it is also possible to gather data from documents • Documents such as emails, blogs, web pages, corporate records, newspapers and photographs record what someone said or what happened • Documents can be as significant as speech in social action (Prior, 2003) Using documents

  3. Documentary techniques There are many different types of documents As well as written materials, there are pictures, diagrams, photographs, videos, television programmes, interactive web sites, and software Documentary techniques are used ‘to categorize, investigate, interpret and identify the limitations of physical sources, most commonly written documents, whether in the private or public domain (personal papers, commercial records, or state archives, communications or legislation)’ (Payne & Payne, 2004: 60) Using documents

  4. Types of documents Personal documents include individuals’ letters, diaries, notes, drafts, files and books Private documents include those that are produced by private organizations for internal purposes such as minutes of meetings, personnel records, budgets and memos Public documents include those that are produced for public consumption, such as annual reports, media statements or articles in newspapers (Payne & Payne, 2004) Using documents

  5. Types of documents (2) Records - attest to some formal transaction, and include marriage certificates, driving licences, bank statements, etc. Written documents - are prepared for personal rather than official reasons and include diaries, memos, letters, etc. (Lincoln and Guba, 1985) Using documents

  6. Types of documents (3) Gottschalk (2006) lists the various types of documents that are used by historians: Contemporary records Confidential reports Public reports Questionnaires Government documents Expressions of opinion Fiction, song, poetry and folklore Using documents

  7. Types of documents (4) Photographs, films and videotapes can bring your story to life Images can be seen as objective visual records – as being a record of the social world Images can also be seen as subjective visual diaries – as if they are memo notes of a personal experience (Hesse-Biber and Leavy, 2006) Using documents

  8. Types of documents (5) Electronic documents – more and more documents are being stored in digital format on a computer, rather than as hard copy Electronic documents can be private (such as many emails) or public (web pages on the Internet) The Internet is like one giant document repository that can be searched Documents obtained via the Internet need to be checked for validity and reliability Using documents

  9. How to use documents Scott (1990) had four criteria for assessing the quality of social research evidence such as documents: Authenticity: Is the evidence genuine and of unquestionable origin? Credibility: Is the evidence free from error and distortion? Representativeness: Is the evidence typical of its kind, and, if not, is the extent of its untypicality known? Meaning: Is the evidence clear and comprehensible? Using documents

  10. Advantages and disadvantages of using documents Documents are relatively cheap and quick to access (Payne & Payne, 2004) Documents can be invaluable for providing important details of events (e.g. the exact date of when a project was approved) Documents make things visible and are traceable (Prior, 2003) Access can be difficult for some types of documents (e.g. emails, or documents in an archive located far away) Using documents