Document Analysis as a Qualitative Research Method

Document Analysis as a Qualitative Research Method

When reading qualitative case studies, I often find claims that ‘document analysis’ or documents are used as a one of several sources of ‘information’. But what does that really mean? Does it mean that documents are used as a complement to other more ‘relevant’ sources of information, does it mean that documents are used for triangulation to ‘check’ results, or does it mean that documents have actually been analyzed in-depth on their own? If the latter, how is this done in practice and what are the pros and cons? To put it in more general terms, what does it really mean to use ‘document analysis’ as a qualitative research method?

For next week we will have a paper that provides a ‘nuts-and-bolts approach to document analysis’, explaining the usefulness and limitations of such an approach. The paper is titled, “Document Analysis as a Qualitative Research Method” and it is published in 2009 in Qualitative Research Journal.

The full paper can be downloaded here.

Abstract
This article examines the function of documents as a data source in qualitative research and discusses document analysis procedure in the context of actual research experiences. Targeted to research novices, the article takes a nuts-and-bolts approach to document analysis. It describes the nature and forms of documents, outlines the advantages and limitations of document analysis, and offers specific examples of the use of documents in the research process. The application of document analysis to a grounded theory study is illustrated.

Keywords: Content analysis, documents, grounded theory, thematic analysis, triangulation.