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Documentary Research in the Social Sciences

Documentary Research in the Social Sciences

April 2019 | 232 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

From diaries and letters to surveys and interview transcripts, documents are a cornerstone of social science research. This book guides you through the documentary research process, from choosing the best research design, through data collection and analysis, to publishing and sharing research findings.

Using extensive case studies and examples, it situates documentary research within a current context and empowers you to use this method to meet new challenges like digital research and big data head on.

In a jargon-free style perfect for beginner researchers, this book helps you to:

·         Interrogate documentary material in meaningful ways

·         Choose the best research design for your project, from literature reviews to policy research

·         Understand a range of approaches, including quantitative, qualitative and mixed methods.

Accessible, clear and focused, this book gives you the tools to conduct your own documentary research and celebrates the importance of documentary analysis across the social sciences.

Part I: Starting Documentary Research
Chapter 1: Introduction
What this Book is For

What the Book Contains

How to Use this Book

Chapter 2: Documents and Documentary Research
What is a Document?

Varieties of Document

The Possibilities and Advantages of Documentary Research

Documents in, or as the Focus of, Research

The Purposes and Usages of Documents

Chapter 3: Finding and Reading Documents
Accessing Documents

Ethical Issues

Sampling and Selection

Issues to Consider when Researching Documents

How to Read Documents

Keeping Records

Chapter 4: Documentary Research in the Disciplines
Documentary Research in the Social Sciences

Documentary Research outside the Social Sciences

Part II: Genres of Documentary Research
Chapter 5: Designing Documentary Research
Documentary Research Designs

Documentary Research and Other Research Designs

Documentary Research in Combination with Other Research Designs

Chapter 6: Literature Reviews
The Nature of Literature Reviews

The Functions of Literature Reviews

Types of Literature Review

Chapter 7: Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses
Systematic Reviews


Chapter 8: Secondary Data Research
Secondary Data and Secondary Data Analysis

Advantages and Disadvantages of Secondary Data Research

Types of Secondary Data Analysis

Examples of Secondary Data Analysis

Where to Get Secondary Data

Chapter 9: Archival and Historical Research
The Nature of Archival and Historical Research

Types of Data and Sources

Examples of Archival and Historical Research

Chapter 10: Policy Research
The Nature of Policy and Policy Research

Types of Policy Research

Examples of Policy Research

Part III: Techniques for Documentary Analysis
Chapter 11: Analysing Documents
Analysis of Written Texts

Analysis of Audio-Visual Texts

Chapter 12: Quantitative Approaches
Simple Quantitative Analysis

Quantitative Content Analysis

Other Forms of Quantitative Documentary Analysis

Chapter 13: Qualitative Approaches
Thematic Analysis

Qualitative Content Analysis

Discourse Analysis

Conversation Analysis

Narrative Analysis

Chapter 14: Mixed Methods Approaches
Triangulation and Mixed Methods

Why and How to Combine Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches in Documentary Research

Examples of Mixed Methods Documentary Research

Part IV: Where Next?
Chapter 15: Sharing and Disseminating your Research
Evaluating Your Research

Seminars and Conference Presentations

Writing Up for Publication

Planning Further Research

Chapter 16: Conclusions

A much-needed overview allowing the reader to sharpen their perspective in the realm of documentary research and to find paths to further information on different research methodologies.

Alexander Geimer
University of Hamburg/University of Klagenfurt

This is an excellent introduction to documentary research methods in the social sciences. Both comprehensive and accessible, it will prove an invaluable resource for students across a range of disciplines. 

Kevin Myers
University of Birmingham

Malcolm Tight has written an excellent textbook on that taken-for-granted method - documentary research. He provides comprehensive and clear coverage of the whys, whats and hows of using documents for research purposes. This book is an essential read for research method students of all disciplines and an invaluable resource for their teachers. 

Rosalind Edwards
Professor of Sociology, University of Southampton

Most social scientists engage in documentary research, but too few approach it with Tight’s rigour.  With lessons drawn from a dozen disciplines, this accessibly-written book is an essential resource for students and scholars dedicated to the empirical study of written texts and recorded material.

Jared Wesley
University of Alberta

In clear and cogent writing, Malcolm Tight articulates not only what documentary research is but also provides an illuminating guide to different genres, techniques, and examples associated with this often-overlooked approach to social research. Documentary Research in the Social Sciences is an indispensable, go-to reference for scholars interested in doing documentary research.

Brian D. Schultz
Department of Teacher Education, Miami University

I would highly recommend this book to researchers in all fields, and especially policy and qualitative researchers. The author’s enthusiasm, expertise and understanding of DR really helps to draw the reader in, as does his clear, coherent writing style and pragmatic approach.

Ruthi Margulis
SRA Research Matters

This book has supported the students to understand how to do documentary research. The book is comphrenshive but designed in a user friendly and accesible style.

Miss Katie Ann Lee
School of Social Sciences and Law, Oxford Brookes University
July 10, 2023

We need to consider a wider range of research methods and approaches that does not rely on primary research methods. This book certainly provides useful information and insights written in a clear crisp narrative.

Dr Tom Farrelly
Business & Social Studies, Tralee Institute of Technology
October 12, 2020

This well-organised and practical text is a good introduction for students undertaking documentary research. It introduces a variety of genres of documents and provides an outline of analytical techniques for both qualitative and quantitative analysis.

Dr Louise Campbell
School of Education & Social Work, Dundee University
May 7, 2019

As a historian by training, but now within a Business School, this is a text to recommend to my students working on research projects (any level) to think this through at a deeper level. Particularly useful insights into the different kinds of literature/systematic reviews.

Dr Bex Lewis
MMU Business School, Manchester Metropolitan University
September 10, 2019

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