The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Projects

By Martyn Denscombe | Go to book overview

12

Documents

Documents can be treated as a source of data in their own right – in effect an alternative to questionnaires, interviews or observation. In the social sciences, library-based research, desk research, black letter research and archive research are all types of research in which the data come from documents of one kind or another.


1 Sources of documentary data

The documentary sources identified below are written sources. There are alternative types of documents for research, which take the form of visual sources (pictures, artefacts etc.) and even sounds (music). These also constitute some form of 'document' which has a value for research but, because they are used relatively rarely within the social sciences, the initial comments are restricted to written forms of documents.


Books and journals

From the academic researcher's point of view, books and journals should be the first port of call. In principle, they contain the accumulated wisdom on which the research project should build, and also the latest cutting-edge ideas which can shape the direction of the research. Libraries provide a means for accessing the publications and, for most purposes, the costs to the researcher should not prove to be a deterrent.

Books and journals, as with any other source of data used for research purposes, need to be assessed in terms of the quality of the ideas and information they contain. It would be naive in the extreme to accept everything at face value or, for that matter, to treat all documentary sources as being equally valid. The researcher needs to evaluate the various sources and discriminate

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The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Projects
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Figures vi
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Strategies for Social Research 3
  • 1: Surveys 6
  • 2: Case Studies 30
  • 3: Internet Research 41
  • 4: Experiments 61
  • 5: Action Research 73
  • 6: Ethnography 84
  • 7: Phenomenology 96
  • 8: Grounded Theory 109
  • Part II - Methods of Social Research 131
  • 9: Questionnaires 144
  • 10: Interviews 163
  • 11: Observation 192
  • 12: Documents 212
  • Part III - Analysis 231
  • 13: Quantitative Data 236
  • 14: Qualitative Data 267
  • 15: Writing Up the Research 284
  • Frequently Asked Questions 299
  • References 302
  • Index 307
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