Documents as Research Tools

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Methodology Essay, Week 9 Documents offer researchers a valuable tool for gaining unobtrusive insight into study subjects. Documents, which Hatch defines as “official written communication”, may take many forms, including manuals, newsletters, emails, memos, policy statements, and more (Hatch, 2002, p.117). They may be utilized in qualitative research to gain a view into official practices, beliefs, and policies in a manner that is far less subject to the interpretations of the researcher. In “School Improvement Plans in Schools on Probation: A Comparative Content Analysis across Three Accountability Systems”, official documents consisted of school improvement plans created by schools designated as low performing by their respective assessment bodies. These documents were the primary focus of the study. The study’s authors conducted a documentary analysis of 103 school’s plans. They were “read, coded, and rated with the help of a code book.” (Mintrop, 2001, p.207). The researchers sought to determine whether or not specific patterns were common in the documents across the vario...

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