What is a document?
A document refers to any piece of written text. This could be a diary, a letter, a newpaper report, a medical record etc. A document is a peice of secondary data that sociologists use to find information.
A common example of a document to study history is Anne Frank's diary.
Public documents are documents that have been produced by organizations. e.g governments and schools.
Examples of public documents are reports, newspapers etc.
These are documents which include the writed feelings and no as open and available to the public.
Photos, diaries and letters are all examples of personal documents.
What are documments useful for?
Historical documents are the best way to study the past. It's almost impossible to study the past in any other way. For example, you cannot study the past in a lab.
Advantages of documents
- Diaries provide rich qualitative data. This makes this method valid.
- Documents are useful to study the past.
- Secondary sources give us something to compare our primary sources to.
- Documents are cheap because someone else has gathered the information.
Disadvantages of documents
- Data may not be authentic. In diaries or newspapers there could be missing pages and whoever wrote the document could exaggerate or lie.
- Is the document believable and a true reflection of what happened?
- Is the evidence of the document typical of the time? Not all documents survive. It's usually documents that have been kept safe that survive, so probably documents belonging to the rich. The poorer people's documents were discarded so we don't have their information.
- It may be hard to interpret what it meant by the text. Words change over time. Diaries are personal and not meant to have an audience so we may interpret them in a different way.