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Document Analysis

Michael Meyen


By no means all method textbooks discuss document analysis because there is disaccord as to whether this is an independent technique or whether it merely aims to apply different methods to a particular investigation material (→  Research Methods ). There is also controversy as to what has to be understood by “document.” Used in a wider sense as a synonym for the word “source” in historical research (→  Historiography ), this concept encompasses all objects manufactured by man. However, as a rule, only written sources are considered to be documents. Examples are: reports, the wordings of laws, the minutes of proceedings, records, letters, diaries, leaflets, press articles, books, organization charts, or work instructions. Since these documents have their origin in everyday contexts and there is no contact between the researcher and the production of the investigation material, document analysis is a non-reactive method. Consequently, neither the researcher nor the aim of the investigation has any influence on the material itself. In addition, the costs of document analysis are lower than those of any primary →  survey . Against this, the method has two major disadvantages: usually, documents only account for parts of the questions asked by the researcher, and they leave room for interpretations (→  Qualitative Methodology ; Objectivity in Science ). Document analysis is the obvious ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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