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The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods

Archival Research

Contributors: Louise Corti Editors: Michael S. Lewis-Beck & Alan Bryman & Tim Futing Liao Book Title: The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods Chapter Title: "Archival Research" Pub. Date: 2004 Access Date: November 01, 2013 Publishing Company: Sage Publications, Inc. City: Thousand Oaks Print ISBN: 9780761923633 Online ISBN: 9781412950589 DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4135/9781412950589.n20 Print pages: 21-22

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for example.4135/9781412950589. verify or challenge existing findings. which is seen as fresh. Primary research data are also found.g. organizational records. personal diaries. field notes.doi.org/10. are the types of sources to be found of interest to the social scientist? Archives contain official sources (such as government papers). Indeed. purposive section or organizational disposal policies). archives are necessarily a product of sedimentation over the years— collections may be subject to erosion or fragmentation—by natural (e. Many university repositories or special collections contain rich stocks of these materials. Original source materials may be consulted and analyzed for purposes other than those for which they were originally collected—to ask new questions of old data. these methods should be viewed as complementary. observations. accidental loss or damage) or manmade causes (e.g. and other contextual materials. Archives also comprise the cultural and material residues of both institutional and theoretical or intellectual processes. evaluating.. using archives may seem relatively unexciting compared to undertaking fieldwork. unpublished manuscripts. However.Uni of Nottingham (Kings meadow) Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods http://dx. and associated correspondence. Historical research methods and archival techniques may seem unfamiliar. and systematic interpretation and analysis of sources found in archives. and include transcripts or tapes of interviews. medical records. For the social scientist. and their advantages should be recognized for addressing certain research questions. provide a comparison over time or between geographic areas. consulting archival sources enables the social scientist to both enhance and challenge the established methods of defining and collecting data. not competing. in the development of ideas within a key social science department. What. Material is therefore subjectively judged to be worthy of preservation by either the depositor or archivist and therefore may not represent the original collection in its Page 3 of 4 The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods: Archival Research . personal collections. social scientists are not used to working with hand-break written sources that historians routinely consult. However. and essential for many researchers. vibrant.. or draw together evidence from disparate sources to provide a bigger picture.n20 For the social scientist. for example. then. such as those created by the investigator during the research process. archival research can be defined as the locating.

4135/9781412950589. C. biographical methods to document lives and ideas by verifying personal documentary sources. Foster.). or content analysis to determine the presence of certain words or concepts within text. M. Louise Corti http://dx. & Sheppard. K. British archives: A guide to archival resources in the United Kingdom (3rd ed. Techniques for locating archival material are akin to excavation—what you can analyze depends on what you can find. Page 4 of 4 The SAGE Encyclopedia of Social Science Research Methods: Archival Research . Newbury Park. grounded theory to uncover patterns and themes in the data.org/10.n20 REFERENCES Elder. For some collections. M. (1995). J. and the researcher must typically make a prior appointment to consult materials and show proof of status. Once located. review. test out prior hypotheses. a researcher is free to immerse himself or herself in the materials—to evaluate. J. 07– 088). Hill.Uni of Nottingham (Kings meadow) Copyright ©2013 SAGE Research Methods entirety. Working with archival lives: Studying lives (Sage University Papers on Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences. . & Clipp. Access to archives should not be taken for granted. Storage space may also have had a big impact on what was initially acquired or kept from a collection that was offered to an archive. CA: Sage. Cambridge. A number of traditional social science analytic approaches can be used once the data sources are selected and assembled—for example. . E. 31). (1990). E. Evaluating sources to establish their validity and reliability is an essential first step in preparing and analyzing archival data. specific approval must be gained in advance via the archivist. UK: Polity. (1993).doi. Scott. CA: Sage. London: Macmillan. Pavalko. . or discover emerging issues. and reclassify data. Archival strategies and techniques (Qualitative Research Methods Series No. G. Newbury Park. J. (1993). A matter of record: Documentary sources in social research.