You are here

Expedited access to textbooks and digital content

Instructors: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and in support of your transition to online learning, requests for complimentary review copies of our textbooks will be fulfilled through our eBooks partner, VitalSource. By providing you with a digital review copy of the requested textbook(s), we can ensure you have expedited access to our content. If you require special assistance, please contact us at (800) 818-7243 ext. 6140 or at

Documentary Research in the Social Sciences

Documentary Research in the Social Sciences

May 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

Amazingly comprehensive for its slim size and very accessibly written, this book will provide an excellent introduction for students and novice researchers.

Dr Brett Bligh
Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University
March 27, 2019

This book is good for secondary data research. Chapters 3, 5, 8, 12 and 13 are especially relevant for my module.

Dr Yujie Hu
Faculty of Business, Leeds University
March 26, 2019

an excellent textbook that will assists students at all levels, as well as researchers

Mr Richard Kotter
Geography & Environmental Management, Northumbria University
March 26, 2019

Clearly written and accessible this book gives a useful focus to a form of research which gets relatively scant coverage in generic social research methods texts.

Mr Robin Sen
Department of Sociological Studies, The University of Sheffield
March 26, 2019

Preview this book

For instructors

Select a Purchasing Option

ISBN: 9781526426659
ISBN: 9781526426642

This title is also available on SAGE Knowledge, the ultimate social sciences online library. If your library doesn’t have access, ask your librarian to start a trial.