• Summary
  • Overview
  • Key Readings

Documentary research involves the use of texts and documents as source materials: government publications, newspapers, certificates, census publications, novels, film and video, paintings, personal photographs, diaries and innumerable other written, visual and pictorial sources in paper, electronic, or other ‘hard copy’ form. Along with surveys and ethnography, documentary research is one of the three major types of social research and arguably has been the most widely used of the three throughout the history of sociology and other social sciences. It has been the principal method - indeed, sometimes the only one - for leading sociologists.

The key issues surrounding types of documents and our ability to use them as reliable sources of evidence on the social world must be considered by all who use documents in their research. The paucity of sources available until now means that this compendium will be invaluable to social researchers.

Volume One: Theory and Methods

Volume Two: Personal Documents

Volume Three: Mass Media and Cyber Documents

Volume Four: Official Statistics and Sources

Editor's Introduction: Documentary Research

Look in any standard textbook of social research methods and you will find chapter after chapter devoted to interviewing, questionnaires, and observation, yet mere will be little or nothing on the use of documents. This is in striking contrast to the situation in actual research practice, where the use of documents is one of die principal forms of social research. The reasons for this comparative neglect of documentary research methods in methodological discussion are unclear. It is true that documents are often seen as the particular source material for historians and for those with primarily historical interests, yet me situation is no better in history. Works in historiography have little or nothing to say about the methods of collection and analysis ...

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