Documentary research: types and characteristics
The characteristics of documentary research, a very useful way of obtaining knowledge.
Many people have the misconception that all research involves administering questionnaires or conducting experiments.
However, not all information depends solely on experimental methodology. By searching for documents it is possible to expand knowledge about a given subject, or to state the state of the art.
This is where the concept of documentary research comes in which, although it is very present in the social sciences, is essential in any branch of science.
What is documentary research?
Documentary, or bibliographic, research is that in which information about an issue under study is obtained, selected, organized, interpreted, compiled and analyzed from documentary sources.. These sources can be of all kinds, such as books, hemerography, audiovisual records, newspaper clippings, among others. This technique is widely used in the social sciences and is qualitative.
There are investigations that are purely documentary, such as a bibliographic search on a historical event, the vision about an aspect in psychology or the biography of a famous person. However, most scientific most scientific research has a documentary part, especially when it comes to writing up the theoretical framework and relating the results obtained and relating the results obtained to their experimentation.
There are several characteristics that define documentary research: let's see them.
Data collection and use
Data are collected and used with the intention of being able to analyze them, providing logical results from them.
Follow a logical order
When consulting the bibliography, past events and findings are searched, trying to organize them from oldest to youngest, seeing how they have been defended or refuted.In the bibliography, we look for past events and findings, trying to organize them from oldest to youngest, seeing how the issue under study has been defended or refuted, and consulting previously used research instruments.
Theoretical or referential research
That is to say, documentary research is that which is carried out to know the information about an issue, exposing the theories that try to explain it in addition to making known to the world the lines of research of the same.
This is typical of social sciences, although there are also many works in natural sciences that use this type of research.especially when presenting bibliographic searches about the effectiveness of a certain drug or any treatment.
It allows finding gaps and reinterpreting approaches.
When researching on what exists with respect to a subject, it is possible to find aspects that have not yet been addressed, i.e. gaps in scientific knowledge..
It is also possible to find that a certain theory or scientific finding was not properly analyzed, re-interpreting and changing its approach.
Types of documentary research
The types of documentary research that exist are
Exploratory documentary research aims to test whether one or several hypotheses are valid.. In addition, it allows understanding the complexity of a given issue to be addressed, by analyzing it and formulating possible solutions to it. In essence, it explores what is known about the object of study.
Informative documentary research aims to inform about what is relevant to a specific topic.. The object of study is described in as much detail as possible, ordering and selecting all the existing information prior to the writing of the work itself.
Types of information sources
When talking about the types of information sources, we can classify them according to two criteria. The first refers to the origin of the source, while the second refers to the type of document itself, i.e. its format.
Depending on the origin
According to the criterion of their origin, the types of information sources for documentary research are the following.
1. Primary sources
Primary research sources are those that offer first-hand information. They are original and relevant information.
A clear example of a primary source of information is an autobiography, a person's civil documents, such as a birth certificate, or a recording of a historical event.
Secondary research sources are those in which the information has undergone a process of information has undergone a process of prior analysis, judgment, restructuring or critique.. That is, it is information that may not be entirely reliable or have the point of view of the person who has handled it.
An example of this would be, for example, biographies of a famous person made by someone close to them, history books from a time after the events they describe...
Depending on the format
Depending on the format, information sources can be classified into these types.
1. Printed documentation
The printed documentation par excellence is the bookHowever, there are many others that can be used in documentary research, such as newspapers, theses, research projects, statistical publications...
2. Electronic documentation
Since we live in a world in which Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are practically indispensable, they cannot be missing in documentary research.
Electronic documentation is all the materials that can be materials that can be found on the Internet, such as bookssuch as books, digital journals, online scientific articles, blogs, digitized documents...
3. Graphic documentation
Graphic documentation is that which provides visual information, such as photographs, maps, diagrams, tables, infographics.....
4. Audiovisual documentation
Audiovisual documentation are video and audio recordings, such as films, documentaries, recorded interviews...
Structure of the documentary research
The structure of the work will basically depend on the type of material consulted and the objective of the documentary research. However, the structure usually shares the following elements the structure usually shares the following elements:
- State of the question.
- Statement of the problem to be addressed.
- General and specific objectives.
- Theoretical and/or methodological framework.
- Analysis of the issue.
- Discussion and conclusions.
- Bibliography and annexes if applicable.
How is this type of research conducted?
Related to the previous point, each documentary research implies a different way of proceedingdepending on the subject matter and access to available information. However, in most cases we can find the following steps to follow.
First of all, the material is selected, that is, the documents that will be read to shape the research and the written work. It is important to make an extensive and exhaustive collection of all the material that is considered necessary, since it can be useful for the process of writing and specifying the object of study.
After having obtained all the material, a review of the material should be made.. Thus, the researchers will classify the sources of information they have obtained, ordering them from most to least relevant, and prioritizing those that are most important for the topic. The first step is to consult the bibliography that offers the most information on the subject, thus avoiding wasting time.
Once the material has been read, it is then selected and textual information is obtained to make quotations and references in order to support the theories and interpretations to be presented in the work.. Data analysis is performed, that is, analyzing the information obtained, preparing the document in which one's own opinion on the issue addressed can be reflected or offering an interpretation of the phenomenon addressed.
Finally, there are the conclusions, in which the research group closes the subject, specifying the points that have been found, the most relevant interpretations, how the issue addressed has been left and what it was intended to demonstrate and whether such an objective has been achieved.
On the selection of sources of information
Before selecting the material, its value should be assessed. Research experts suggest using the following four elements to evaluate and determine whether a source is acceptable or not:
Authenticity refers to the authorship of the text.It is the first step to be taken in any documentary research. When consulting a text, it is necessary to investigate who the author is, if he is an expert on the subject, if he has done other studies related to the topic and if it is true that the source we are consulting is his or a secondary source.
Credibility refers to whether the document is accurate and truthful.. This may depend on several aspects, such as the author's point of view, whether he/she has been impartial or whether he/she has consulted verifiable sources. Although truthful documents are those that should form the basis of the research, those that are not need not be discarded altogether, since they can be used to discuss the information contained in them.
Representativeness refers to if a selected document is relevant to the objective of our study, and if it serves to expand our knowledge of the subject under study.and if it serves to expand our knowledge of the subject under study.
The significance of information sources refers to the content of the documents consulted, as well as their comprehension and the evaluation of the information presented. When determining the significance of a source of information, it must be determined whether the content of the text is adapted to the historical context in which it was written..
Advantages of documentary research
Documentary research saves resources, such as time and money, since, unlike quantitative research, it does not require a lot of materials. The information to be searched for is already written, all you have to do is go in search of it, read it, analyze it and structure the work in which you will show your own interpretations and points of view.
In experimental research, on the other hand, it is necessary to select the data collection method, conduct experiments, set up the laboratory or design a questionnaire, and invest in obtaining materials.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)