Advantages And Disadvantages Of Doing Documentary Research – Essay Example

Documentary research is the form of research that concerns itself with examining records, documents and other form of printed material. Some examplesof documents that are used for research are library manuals and journals, back issues of periodicals, church records, government documents and judicial records. The advantage of making use of these documents for research is that one knows the chronological sequence of events better than what one can glean from interviews and field work.
The flip side of relying too much on documentary research as opposed to surveys and field work is that one misses out on the first hand experiences that are often a valuable store of information. Documentary research limits itself to the study of old documents and piecing together the evidence from published accounts. Surveys and field work take the research to an entirely new dimension by making the researcher take an “ethnographic” point of view. In sociological studies, ethnocentricity is important to understand the native cultures and pursuing research in the library or the national archives yield limited gains.
Of course, there is no one size fits it all approach and documentary research is important when researching events and persons of the past. It is often an invaluable method of getting to know what the living conditions were at a particular point in history. In the absence of living examples or archaeological data, it is better to rely on first hand accounts left behind in archives. In conclusion, it is my contention that a mix of documentary and experimentation methods of research used so that the research process is complete and yields the desired data for the researcher to carry on his or her work.