AQA A Level Sociology Documents

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  • Documents
    • Include written texts and music, radio, paintings, drawings...
    • Practical Issues
      • May be the only available source of info
      • Can study the past with them
      • Free/cheap as someone else has already gathered the info
      • Not always possible to gain access to them (sensitive, incriminating info)
      • Individuals/organisations wrote up those documents for their own purposes: may not answer question
    • Theoretical Issues
      • High validity: this is due to qualitative data
        • Thomas and Znaniecki (1919): used documents to show the experience of Polish migrants
        • Scott (1990): 3 issues with the validity of documents
          • 1. May not be authentic: could be a forgery...
          • 2. Credibility: key details may have been forgotten, details may have been softened
          • 3. Misinterpretation: May impose our own meaning on the data. Difficulties if it's written in a foreign language, meaning of words have changed...
      • Reliability: Positivists regard docs as unreliable because they are unique. Undermines their representativeness and means it's difficult to draw generalisations from them
      • Representativeness: some groups may not be represented, such as the illiterate or who were too busy to write
        • Not all documents survive
        • 30 year rule prevents access to many docs
        • Docs containing official secrets will never be revealed, neither will diaries
    • Content Analysis
      • Formal content analysis
        • Gill (1988): select a representative sample of what you want to study, the  split it into categories, then code it, then quantify the info
          • Positivists like formal content analysis  as it produces objective, representative, quantitative data
          • Feminists: Best (1993) like formal content analysis
          • Interpretivists: requires a judgement to categorise the data, counting data doesn't reveal much
      • Thematic Analysis
        • Involves selecting a small number of cases for in-depth analysis
          • Soothill and Walby (1991): feminists used thematic analysis in their study of ****
        • Criticisms: doesn't obtain a representative sample so can't be generalised. Data is only picked if it agrees with the hypothesis.


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