secondary methods

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  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 12-04-14 12:28

historical documents

church records

  • baptism, marriage, funeral - church records names, dates, addresses
  • allow researchers to see how long people lived in past, how many kids, which relatives lived together
  • predate first national census of 1801, some have been damage or lost
  • Peter Laslett(1972) -  used church records to determine proportions of families that were extended in earlier centuries.


  • tell us of family size+structure in past. What people valued and how many servants they had
  • less likely to be preserved over time than church records
  • those remaining may not be representative

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historical documents

creative expression

  • novels, short stories, plays, poems, folksong, pictures
  • used to learn about past ways of life and attitudes
  • Philippe Aries(1962) - used medieval and more recent pictures of how childhood has been constructed through the ages
  • important to analyse sufficient amount of examples to gain representative data - likely that some works of art and fiction will exaggerate for dramatic effect
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personal documents


  • provide insights into aspects of daily life - gender roles, norms and values, experiences of and attitudes toward historical events
  • may provide rich qualitative data, but only the literate and leisured produced them, and few preserved


  • insights in to personal experiences in specific contexts
  • much in common with diaries
  • may not tell truth, bias hard to detect, reflect lives of small proportion of population
  • may provide qualitative data unavailable elsewhere

exam tip

  • some documents may fall in to more than one category
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mass media

  • soap operas, films, newspapers, magazines, lyrics, advertisements, internet sources
  • reveal events in recent past
  • attitudes to particular issues
  • representation and stereotyping of different groups
  • amount of coverage given to certain types of crime
  • moral panics - trends that arouse public concern
  • news values - the criteria the media use to select which events to cover
  • political biases and agendas set by particular media
  • amount of violence or sexual content to which viewers are subjected
  • Glennys Lobarn(1974) - counted roles of males and females in childrens' books - to show how readers were being socialised into traditional gender roles using 'hard', formal or quantitative content analysis
  • more interpretive approach, 'soft' thematic or qualitative content analysis, searching texts for synonyms and connected words to gain overall impression of attitudes
  • Stanley Cohen used this method to gauge the degree to which media exaggerated disturbances between mods and rockers in 'folk devils and moral panics'(1972)
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mass media

  • semiology or semantics is an even more interpretive approach, discussion of connotations of words, images and styles.
  • quantitative content analysis is relatively reliable but data may be superficial
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official statistics

  • statistics collected and published by governments and similar bodies
  • census data, school league tables, gov. department data, pressure groups, legal and religious organisations
  • provide data about employment, demography, exam results, marriage + divorce, poverty, suicide, church attendance
  • Durkheim used suicide rates in germany to support theory that socially intergrated people less likely to committ suicide

exam tip

  • contrast Durkheim's faith in statistics with the critical attitudes of phenomenologists such as Atkinson and Douglas - gains application marks.


  • often from a whole nation - more representative than single research
  • comparisons made between different groups, periods of history, or places
  • can be generally accessed
  • compiled by experts, unlikely to be careless errors
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official stats(cont.)

  • comparison difficult - different ways of categorising phenomena over time
  • government/institution compiling stats may wish to present a certain picture. Biased methods of collection. Marx+Fem distrust data as they are social constructs collected at bidding power of rich.
  • not easy to discover circumstances in which early stats were obtained,  categories used/how accurate they are
  • may not be available for certain topics
  • stats relating to particular tops are flawed 
  • crime figures rely on public being aware of crime & reporting it
  • suicide figures rely on coroners' judgements
  • stats of earning flawed by reluctance to pay income tax
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  • using just one method provides inadequate data upon which to base conclusions
  • 2+ methods from primary and secondary sources, generating both qualitative and quantitative data is better - known as triangulation
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