Gidley, B. (2012). Doing Historical and Documentary Research (Summary)

Archival research is not necessarily a method, but a source of information. Primary sources reflect a first-hand account, and secondary are usually a written text. Archival sources can also be oral recordings and written documents. An important consideration in using archival sources is the accessibility of information. Sources may be available to use in research, but copy written from publication. Sometimes the information is restricted access and cannot be released. Something the chapter mentions that is relatable to my own research interests is utilizing archival sources to explore the development of concepts. For example, archives can map the development of important policy decisions through the intertextual comparison of standard documents, legislature, and correspondence documents. Accessing a collection will differ depending on the institution, but each has its own set of regulations that must be followed. These restrictions may relate to the sensitivity of the information, or the preservation of the physical material. Archival collections can be overwhelming, which is something I am now all too aware of. A finding-aid is a useful tool to navigate for specific information. The chapter discusses methodological debates relating to realism (archival texts represent reality) and constructionism (texts are a social construct). The validity and reliably of using archival sources are also described. Questions to ask of an archival collection relate to genuine authenticity, credibility and undistorted nature, representativeness of its kind, and meaning. Archives will be serialized in some specified order, that may relate to the original organization or some curated research interest. Archives are both challenged and influenced by changing technologies, and much like archaeology they only represent a small fragment of the full narrative. One important concept is digitization and the internet. New technologies and communications allow for more open accessibility, although the same considerations of sharing sensitive information still apply.

Gidley, B. (2012). Doing Historical and Documentary Research. In C. Seale (Ed.), Researching Society and Culture (3rd ed, pp. 263–282). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.


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