Archival - documentary methods
We have already mentioned documents earlier, in our discussion of secondary sources of data. Some documents may be in the form of text, while others present statistical information.
You will almost certainly need to do some documentary research in the course of your project, whether it is reading minutes of meetings and financial reports or analysing existing statistical data. Documents are an important source of information to provide insight into a topic and ideas for further investigation, and to illuminate events you are observing by providing a historical perspective. Your precise choice of documents will depend upon the research questions you are seeking to answer, but with every document, it is helpful to ask yourself the following questions:
You should also consider the writer - who wrote it, were they an expert, did they habitually tell the truth, are they writing from first-hand experience and how long after the event was the document prepared?
The advantage of using documents are that your analysis can be repeated and checked by other researchers. If the documents are in the public domain, they may already have been the subject of critical study. However, documents are highly subjective and could even be lies or forgeries.