Research Methods - Documents

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Document research is when a sociologist will use a document to help develop his own research. This may include using a diary entry, medical records or even a novel. We can also use sounds, and images from film, television, radio and the internet and other media output. Interpretivists tend to favour documents because they achieve the main interpretivist goal of validity. They are not usually written with research in mind and can thus be an authentic statement of their author’s views. Positivists on the other hand tend to reject documents because they fail to achieve the main positivist goals of reliability, generalisablitiy and representativeness.

There are two types of documents; public, and personal. Public documents are produced by organisations such as government departments, schools and charities. Personal documents include items such as letters, diaries, photo albums and autobiographies. These are first-person accounts of social events and personal experiences, and they generally also include the writer’s feelings and attitudes.

Assessing Documents

  • Who wrote the document? Is the document what it claims to be? Are there any missing pages?
  • Is the document



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