Using Documents and Records in Social Research

Using Documents and Records in Social Research

  • Summary
  • Overview
  • Key Readings

Although almost all social research is dependent on documentation in one way or another, the role of documents in the research process is more often than not underplayed. Indeed, in most social scientific studies, documents and records tend to enter and leave the ‘field’ in relative silence, and their place in empirical research is often associated with the use of ‘unobtrusive’ techniques. This collection aims to rectify this anomaly by collecting together a body of papers that highlights the different ways in which documents and records have, and can be, approached and studied in a variety of social research contexts. By assembling key papers from studies in fields as diverse as criminology, health, education, and organizational research, as well as science and technology studies, the volumes illustrate how documents and records figure in all aspects of the research process from research design, through to data collection, data analysis and report writing.

Volume I: The Study of Content draws from a mix of 20th writers who have used letters, diaries, newspapers and related published materials as sources of data.

Volume II: The Social Construction of Documents and Records focuses on papers that emphasize the different ways in which documents and records are assembled and constructed.

Volume III: Documents in ‘the Field’ investigates how documents have been used in various forms of field work.

Volume IV: Documents in Networks examines the ways in which documents can both form part of a network and reflect networks.

Editor's Introduction

Ergo dixisti et facta sunt, atque in verbo tuo fecisti ea1.

(Therefore you spoke and heaven and earth were made, and you made them [by means of] your word).

—Saint Augustine, Confessions.
1. The Dynamics of Documentation

Whether it be in Latin or in English text, the opening quotation serves to underline a complex and sometimes magical connection that exists between words and action. Indeed, from the Book of Genesis to the Gospel according to St. John and on through St. Augustine, the idea of things being done and made in words emerges repeatedly in Judeo-Christian thought2. Clearly, St. Augustine is referring to the spoken word, yet we know full well that in many traditions - Islamic and Zoroastrian as well as the Judeo-Christian - the written ...

locked icon

Sign in to access this content