Alice Butler, School of Geography,University of Leeds
Readers of this blog are familiar with a variety of practices used to analyse documents. This piece serves as a reflection on what is often seen as a confusing step in planning a textual analysis: creating a coding structure. I am a Human Geographer based at the University of Leeds where I am researching the historical formation of territorial stigma in relation to the district of Toxteth in Liverpool. Toxteth and Liverpool have a poor reputation (Boland, 2008) and Scousers—residents of Liverpool—are stigmatized particularly in the media where they are caricatured as being work-shy scroungers, morally degenerate and deviant (Boland, 2008). Liverpool is “synonymous with vandalism, with high crime, with social deprivation in the form of bad housing, with obsolete schools, polluted air and a polluted river, with chronic unemployment, run-down dock systems and large areas of dereliction” (Marriner, 1982 in Wildman, 2012: 119). Toxteth, a district to the south of the city centre, is particularly stung by a poor reputation with popular magazines and websites warning the public that Toxteth and its residents are dangerous; a popular men’s online magazine reporting that “shootings are a regular thing here, and pedestrians can almost certainly expect to run into trouble” (Clarke, 2009). I want to know how this pernicious reputation came to have such a grip on Toxteth.
For this, I have turned to online newspaper archives and I have spent the last year scouring the Times, the Guardian, the Mirror, the Financial Times, and the Express archives from for the 20th century. I have completed a mixed quantitative-qualitative content analysis (borrowing heavily from the Critical Discourse Analysis tradition) of 1,950 newspaper articles that mention the term ‘Toxteth’. Putting together a coding structure can often be a daunting prospect and it is to that which I turn in the rest of this short piece.
My coding schedule—the database into which the data and codes are entered—came about after a period of reflection: what did I want to find out through analysis? I wanted to know how the press stigmatized Toxteth in their coverage during the 20th century and, for this, I needed to note the appearance of certain words or phrases. I needed columns to hold the date of publication so that I could trace the use of these words or phrases over time. I needed to know who was quoted in articles and who was denied a voice, so I added columns for quotation source. Further, I wanted to mark whether articles portrayed Toxteth and events in Toxteth in a positive, negative or neutral manner, so I added a column for valency to reflect this. Finally, I needed columns to code for how Toxteth was mentioned in each article. This was the trickiest part of developing the coding structure as I had to develop codes and sub-codes that would reflect the content of the texts.
A code is “a word or short phrase that symbolically assigns a summative, salient, essence-capturing, and/or evocative attribute for a portion of language-based or visual data” (Saldaña, 2009: 3). It can be thought of as capturing the essence of data in much the same way as a title captures the essence of a book, film or poem (Saldaña, 2009: 3). In a quantitative study, codes are generally predetermined, separate from the text under analysis. In a qualitative study, the codes are “refined” during the coding and analysis process (Bryman, 2012: 559). For my work, I used a pilot study of regional newspapers that I didn’t include in my final analysis all available through the British Newspaper Archive, which helped me to determine some codes to be used in the main study, but I followed a qualitative coding approach that allowed me to generate new codes during the coding process. The codes, then, are generated based on what the text contains. For my research, I asked the question: in what capacity is Toxteth mentioned in this text? I allowed myself to develop as many codes as necessary in the initial first cycle of analysis (Saldaña, 2009: 3) and these codes covered everything from car accidents, race relations, and promiscuity, to community relations, deprivation, and drugs raids (see image below). It was at the second cycle of analysis that I condensed these codes and, for example, re-coded “burglary”, “robbery and “theft” all as “theft”. I also went back through the data and sorted the individual codes into “families” or categories (Saldaña, 2009: 8) that make the data easier to manage. Categories include umbrella terms such as “crime”, “riots”, and “politics” and the revised codes form the sub-codes within each category.
Coding in this fashion can be a time-consuming and laborious process; this project took many months to complete. It is worth putting the time in to reflect on what you want the analysis of the text to reveal, and to spend some time conducting a trial or pilot study to test out an initial coding structure even if you intend to let codes generate during the analysis. However, the results are detailed and, if planned correctly, can provide a comprehensive way to understand texts.
Boland, P. (2008) ‘The construction of images of people and place: Labelling Liverpool and
stereotyping Scousers’, Cities, 25(6), pp. 355–369.
Bryman, A. (2012) Social research methods. 4th edn. New York: Oxford University Press.
Clarke, N. (2009). Britain’s worst neighbourhoods. [online] AskMen. Available at: https://uk.askmen.com/entertainment/special_feature_250/273b_top-10-dodgy-british-neighbourhoods.html [Accessed 24 Jan. 2018].
Saldaña, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. London: SAGE.
Wildman, C. (2012) ‘Urban transformation in Liverpool and Manchester, 1918–1939’, The
Historical Journal, 55(01), pp. 119–143.
Alice Butler is a PhD student at the University of Leeds, based in the School of Geography. She researches the production of territorial stigmatization and denigration, particularly in relation to the city of Liverpool. In addition, she is involved in research about the use and effects of the discourse of denigration on social media. Alice has a BA in French and Middle Eastern Studies and a MA in Politics.
Andrew Rackley, British Library
This blog is a summary of sorts related to my current research for the British Sociological Association (BSA) and the British Library (BL). In it I discuss how I came to be here, why archives are more relevant to sociological research than they are often perceived to be, and start to address why documents and archives could play a more prominent role in the methodological canon.
My background heavily involves documents. My mother was a librarian. My father made paper. I completed a B.A. in Ancient and Medieval History before qualifying and working as an archivist. So naturally my PhD focussed on the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. I am being flippant, of course. My principal concern was to understand what became of the documentary heritage: who was collecting material, why, and where to find it; what was termed the ‘knowledge legacy’ (Rackley, 2016). My thesis examined the interaction of actor and agency when documenting a ‘mega-event’; the main contention being that any such endeavour had to be active; supporting the notion that archives are not static containers of information or data waiting to be ‘discovered’ by researchers, but influenced by social forces. I am currently engaged as the BSA Fellow for Sociology at the British Library BL, a mouthful of a title, but one that encompasses the collaborative nature of my research, which aims to investigate why sociologists are (not) using archives, and what could be done to encourage a greater engagement between the two.
An archive may be composed of books, papers, maps or plans, photographs or prints, films or videos and even computer-generated records that are ‘born-digital’. They are the past, present and future records, produced by people and organisations in their day-to-day activities. This includes governments, universities, hospitals, charities, professional bodies, families and individuals. These records are intended to be kept permanently, so the purpose of an archive is to both preserve the past and allow others to (re-)discover it. Following from this it is possible to say that archives are social constructs, they ‘are not natural but are culturally made’ (Gidley, 2017: 298).
This is a key observation for the sociological relevance of archival content, and is an intrinsic part of contemporary archival theory. From the mid-1990s a particular train of archival thought has been to consider an archive as ‘always in the process of becoming’ (McKemmish in Reed, 2005: 128), essentially considering that the meaning of archival content is not fixed, but fluid; able to be (re)created and open to interpretation. Borrowing from the writings of Giddens, Upward (1996, 1997) conceptualised the ‘records continuum’ as an abstract conceptual model for interpreting the multiple actors and agencies that impact upon archives. Observing that Giddens’ writings on time-space distanciation provided a parallel to recognisable patterns in archives and records management, Upward firmly positioned the model as a window onto the multiple relationships and contexts a record can have across spacetime. Thus the ‘creation’, ‘capture’, ‘organisation’ and ‘pluralisation’ of content does not occur in isolation, or indeed in a linear fashion, but are concurrent and traceable to each instantiation of use (Upward, 2000).
Such parallels are important to consider when using documents. Archives play a vital role in documenting and preserving individual, local, regional and national collective memories, which in turn serve to shape and reflect the identities and communities which they represent (Flinn et al., 2009; Ketelaar, 2008; Rackley, 2016). Archives do not exist in a vacuum, and archivists are no longer considered as independent, impartial custodians, just as the archives themselves are not thought to be the product of a passive accumulation of the historical record (Cook, 2013, Brothman, 2010). Rather, archivists have come to reflexively embrace the role which they play in creating the archival record and now recognise it as more of a social product.
As either method or methodology, the use of archives and documentary sources does not feature prominently within sociological research primers, and where it can be identified it is often implicit and bereft of a consistent language with which it is discussed (Moore et al., 2017: ch5). The lack of an explicit methodology for archival research within sociology could somewhat explain the perceived lack of engagement with archives. Yet there are a growing number of sociological texts that bridge this gap (Stanley et al, 2013; Opotow and Belmonte, 2016), including most notably Moore et al’s (2017) The Archive Project. The crucial expression of the text for sociologists is in the recognition that ‘a widely held but misconceived assumption is that the documents that archives hold are always from and about ‘the past’…[however] many archives are organised around contemporary concerns and interests, while of course the contents of all archives are always read and understood within the present moment’ (Moore et al, 2017: ch1, section 1).
Over the last few paragraphs I have discussed why I think archives are incredibly relevant to sociologists and what I perceive as a gap in sociological literature and methodology, in which documents and archival research are frequently overlooked. Aimee’s forthcoming (Grant, 2018) ‘how to’ guide – which I am quite excited to get my hands on – will be a welcome addition to the texts I have briefly included here. I was very excited when I learnt of the DRN and Aimee asked me to contribute to the blog as I felt we shared a similar vision: to engage researchers in conversation, build a corpus of related literature, and increase an awareness of, and engagement with, the fantastic resource embodied in archives and documents. The keystone of my project is a belief that there are many areas of the BL’s collections (and those of other archives) that have high value for the sociological community. As such, I hope the project will prove important to the BL and its users through promoting its content, and providing a richer understanding of the research potential of BL collections for sociologists in a manner that is useful to them.
Brothman, B. (2010). Perfect present, perfect gift: Finding a place for archival consciousness in social theory. Archival Science, 10: 141-189.
Cook, T. (2013). Evidence, memory, identity, and community: Four shifting archival paradigms. Archival Science, 13: 95-120.
Flinn, A., Stevens, M. & Shepherd, E. (2009). Whose memories, whose archives? Independent community archives, autonomy and the mainstream. Archival Science, 9(1-2): 71-86.
Gidley, B. (2017). Doing historical and documentary research. In Seale, C. (ed.) Researching Society and Culture. London: SAGE, 285-305.
Grant, A. (2018). Doing EXCELLENT social research with documents: Practical examples and guidance for qualitative researchers. Abingdon: Routledge.
Ketelaar, E. (2008). Archives as spaces of memory. Journal of the Society of Archivists, 29(1): 9-27.
Moore, N., Salter, A., Stanley, L. & Tamboukou, M. (2017). The Archive Project: Archival Research in the Social Sciences. London: Routledge.
Opotow, S. & Belmonte, K. (2016). Archives and social justice research. In Sabbagh, C. and Schmitt, M. (eds.) Handbook of Social Justice Theory and Research. New York: Springer, 445-457.
Rackley, A. (2016). Archiving the Games: collecting, storing and disseminating the London 2012 knowledge legacy. PhD thesis: University of Central Lancashire.
Reed, B. (2005). Records. In McKemmish, S., Piggott, M., Reed, B. & Upward, F. (eds.) Archives: Recordkeeping in Society. Wagga Wagga, NSW: Centre for Information Studies, Charles Sturt University: 101-131.
Stanley, L., Salter, A. & Dampier, H. (2013). The work of making and the work it does: Cultural sociology and ‘bringing-into-being’ the cultural assemblage of the Olive Schreiner letters. Cultural Sociology, 7(3): 287-302.
Upward, F. (2000). Modelling the continuum as paradigm shift in recordkeeping and archiving processes, and beyond: A personal reflection. Records Management Journal, 10(3): 115-139. Available online: http://www.emeraldinsight.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1108/EUM0000000007259 <accessed 10 January 2018>
Upward, F. (1997). Structuring the records continuum part two: Structuration theory and recordkeeping. Archives and Manuscripts, 25(1): 10-35.
Upward, F. (1996). Structuring the records continuum part one: Postcustodial principles and properties. Archives and Manuscripts, 24(2): 268-285.
Andrew Rackley qualified as an archivist from the University of Liverpool’s MARM programme in 2009 and completed a Collaborative Doctoral Award (2016) funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council working with the University of Central Lancashire, Preston, U.K. and the British Library. He has since worked as the Archivist on a Wellcome Trust project to catalogue and digitise the records of the Queen Victoria Hospital, East Grinstead, at West Sussex Record Office, highlighting the pioneering reconstructive surgery received by members of the Guinea Pig Club from Sir Archibald McIndoe during the Second World War. He is currently employed as the BSA Postdoctoral Fellow for Sociology at the British Library.
image © Barbara Ibinarriaga Soltero
Barbara Ibinarriaga-Soltero, PhD student, Cardiff University
Psychologist at UNAM, C.U.
“Hecho en C.U.” which means “Made in C.U.”, is an important phrase to express the identity attached to being either a current or an ex-student at National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in the main campus in Mexico City. Although the origin of this expression comes from the celebration of a football soccer player, Jaime Lozano, from the team Pumas UNAM (Espinosa Beltrán, 2005), it can take different subjective meanings and symbolism. In this case, “Made in C.U.” refers to my professional development as a Psychologist in this Alma Mater well-ranked in Latin America (QSWUR 2018). It also speaks for the historical relevance of the Central University City Campus of the UNAM recognised in the World Heritage Collection (UNESCO, 2007), and for its reference in its bibliographic collection, including more than 13 million titles sheltered in 135 libraries (Fundación UNAM, 2016) encompassing the Central Library (see image).
My training as a Psychologist at UNAM involved a deep engagement with a positivistic perspective towards the study of mindfulness; that is, objectifying mindfulness as a quantifiable process or intervention from which changes in psychological process and behaviour could be measured and reported. This constituted the more accepted approach to study the topic which obeyed not only a disciplinary logic within psychology (i.e., looking at psychological processes as observable and assessable phenomena; Haig, 2014) but from the development within the scientific ground as a whole, presenting Mindfulness-based interventions backed with scientific evidence of its efficacy and applicability in different scenarios (e.g. from health and education to the workplace and the criminal justice system; see Mindful Nation UK, 2015).
However, mindfulness within the social sciences has been investigated in many interesting ways (Ibinarriaga-Soltero, 2017). For instance, it has been used as a method towards psychosocial investigation (Stanley, Barker, Edwards, & McEwen, 2014), and some of the recent studies have looked at participants' subjective experience through first-person perspective methods (Stelter, 2009). This stream of research has been of academic interest for my doctoral research in three levels: epistemologically regarding the way of approaching the topic, not only as a researcher but as a practitioner (Alvesson & Sköldberg, 2009), ontologically as to understanding mindfulness as a practice intertwined with social and cultural aspects of the individual (Stanley, 2012) and not solely to her or his cognitive process located in the brain as empathised by research in neuroscience, and methodologically relevant as to the research design and the methods widely employed to investigate and to comprehend widely mindfulness within a particular geographical, social, and cultural context such as Mexico.
Why Archive Searches and Document Analysis?
One of the challenges that my research has set up so far is the need of conducting archives searches and analysis of documents to historically understand how mindfulness and other meditation practices, which have their origins in Buddhist Philosophy from East Asian countries, have been imported and commodified (Hyland, 2015) in Western countries. These methods have been poorly used among psychologists and specifically within the field of mindfulness studies. In the case of my doctoral research, I see a parallel of the significance of archives and documents as sources in social science research and some of the Buddhist texts. For instance, the Pāli Canon which is considered the authoritative source of Buddha´s teachings (Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2005) which have been passed from generation to generation for more than 2,500 years now. These Buddhist records such as other types of documents such as meditation diaries, policy reports, records of conferences and events as well as constitutive acts of different organisations constitute sources for collecting data which eventually aid a deepening understanding of human life and historically situation the transformation of knowledge and practices in different societies.
By attending the GW4 workshop 'Methodological approaches to document analysis in Social Sciences' offered at Cardiff University, I was introduced to a new perspective to frame my research. It wouldn´t be possible for me to go back to my former University Campus, UNAM C.U., and conduct an archives search without being immersed within the diversity of approaches and art of working with documents during the workshop. I remain thankful for the Documents Research Network for organising the training session, as it was the starting point to develop the pilot study I am conducting in Mexico City at the moment. This study considers a documents analysis as data collection plan to understand historically which main factors have influenced the appropriation of Buddhism and the implementation of contemplative practices in the Mexican context, which also includes identifying pioneers of this movement through the archives search.
The phrase “Hecho en C.U” means to me not only an identity affiliation of the place where I started my training as a psychologist, but a starting point of my journey of searching archives and analysing documents - which potentially would influence and contribute approaches to mindfulness studies within the social sciences.
Alvesson, M. & Sköldberg, K. (2009). Reflexive methodology: New vistas for qualitative research. (2nd ed.). London, England: Sage.
Bhikkhu Bodhi. (Ed.). (2005). In the Buddha´s words: An anthology of discourses from the Pāli Canon. US: Wisdom Publications.
Espinosa Beltrán, A. (2005, June). Hecho en C.U: De cómo los Pumas me devolvieron la identidad [Made in C.U: How the Pumas restored my identity]. Revista Digital Universitaria, 6(6), 2-7. Retrieved from http://www.revista.unam.mx/vol.6/num6/art56/jun_art56.pdf
Fundación UNAM. (2016, November). Acervo bibliográfico de la UNAM: El más importante de América Latina [Bibliographic collection of the UNAM: The most important in Latin America]. Retrieved http://www.fundacionunam.org.mx/unam-al-dia/acervo-bibliografico-de-la-unam-el-mas-importante-de-america-latina/
Haig, B. D. (2014). Investigating the psychological world: Scientific method in the behavioural sciences. London, England: MIT Press.
Hyland, T. (2015). The commodification of spirituality: Education, mindfulness and the marketisation of the present moment. PROSPERO: Philosophy for Education and Cultural Continuity, 21(2), 11-17.
Ibinarriaga-Soltero, B. (2017, January-July). Atención consciente (mindfulness): Una mirada crítica [Mindfulness: A critical perspective]. Journal of the International Coalition of YMCA Universities (8th ed.), 5(8), 73-92. Retrieved from http://ymcauniversitiescoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Eighth-Journal.pdf
Mindful Nation UK. (2015). The Mindfulness Initiative. Retrieved http://www.themindfulnessinitiative.org.uk/images/reports/Mindfulness-APPG-Report_Mindful-Nation-UK_Oct2015.pdf
QSWUR (2018). QS World University Rankings: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Retrieved https://www.topuniversities.com/universities/universidad--autonoma-de-mexico-unam#wurs
Stanley, S. (2012). Mindfulness: Towards a critical relational perspective. Social and Personality Psychology Compass, 6(9), 631-641.
Stanley, S., Barker, M., Edwards, V., & McEwen, E. (2014). Swimming against the stream? Mindfulness as a psychosocial research methodology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 12, 61-76.
Stelter, R. (2009). Experiencing mindfulness meditation—a client narrative perspective. International Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being, 4, 145–158.
UNESCO. (2007). World Heritage List: Central University City Campus of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM). Retrieved http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1250
Barbara Ibinarriaga-Soltero is a PhD student in Social Sciences at Cardiff University. She graduated as a Psychologist from National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) in Mexico City, where she first started practising mindfulness and conducted research on the topic. Organising and delivering workshops based on mindfulness, emotional regulation and body awareness for students and lecturers was part of her professional development before she moved to the UK to study her Master´s degree in Social Sciences Research Methods. Currently, her doctoral research focuses on the critical-historical study of the contemplative practices employed in Higher Education in Mexico and the different pedagogies attached to them.
Daniel Jaquet, Castle of Morges and its Museums, Switzerland
While readers of this blog are already familiar with transdisciplinary approaches relying on other data than mainly documents in their research, I would like to outline some of the avenues I have explored as an historian in the context of my research. I have been taught that documents are the main focal point of any research. As a medievalist, I cannot argue against this statement, although many trends in research are actually attempting to go “beyond documents”. Computer generated data, material culture, experimental data are all different ways used to shed new lights on documents. Here are some examples. The “Venice time machine” is reconstructing social networks with high technological scanning devices, processing big data out of one of the broadest archive in Europe. HART (Historically Accurate Reconstruction Techniques) is a new way of exploring art in the making for museum professionals and art historians. It opened new avenues and led to interesting projects based on the study of documents, such as the “Making and Knowing Project” in New York.
All of this being truly exciting, it does not, however, consider the complex variable of the body in the equation. My research on European martial arts of the 15th and 16th centuries is based on incredible documents: the fight books. It deals with inscription, description or codification of martial knowledge on paper, whereas this media is imperfect for the task. Embodied knowledge, such as martial arts or dance, is indeed transmitted in a face-to-face situation, by oral means including demonstration, imitation, and correction. This is one of the many reasons why this document type is abstract, sometimes locked, to a 21st century researcher. I had to find ways to get beyond these documents, since it indeed raises highly relevant questions. That is, to cut the story short, why these authors actually attempted an impossible task? What does this tell us about the society and the status of martial arts back then? Even, can we actually learn how to fight according to their books?
Many practitioners of “HEMA” (Historical European Martial Arts) train worldwide and even compete in martial arts considered to be “out of the book”. If I am myself an HEMA practitioner, and I train for leisure; I do not focus my scientific work on finding how they fought, and, as a scholar, I do not care much about the study of modern-day HEMA. My hobby did nonetheless enlighten my research, but when it comes to scientific work, I focus more on how and why these books were written. However, before even trying to answer, I had to look into this material and find ways to understand it.
The main issue in studying this kind of written or depicted embodied knowledge is to distinguish between explicit and tacit knowledge. When tacit knowledge is identified, the reader lacking it need to find ways to reconstruct it. I started with looking into material culture to bridge the gap. Fight books concerned with martial techniques to fight an armoured opponent on foot or on horseback do not explain why and how the armour actually affected the body mechanics. The authors and its readers shared this knowledge, but it is lost to us. I then started a long path to go around the impossible task to go to a museum and take a suit of armour out of the display to wear it and to experience how it felt. While this was an uneasy path, it was very rewarding. I met movement scientists and energy expenditure specialists (University of Lausanne and Geneva) to actually document my experiment attempting to measure the impact of a fine replica on my body. I underwent 3D motion capture for gait and functional movement analysis and ran on a motorised treadmill to measure energy expenditure. Out of this experience, I was then able to better understand these documents and to pursue my quest for answers. I do however understand that I cannot communicate on paper what I now know (even if I try hard), because the process of doing it actually provided me with more information than any reader would take out of reading the results of the experiment or any of my scholarly publication.
To circle back to the beginning of this post, I would like to encourage scholars to explore unfamiliar paths to study documents. Some of the recent attempts on going beyond documents led to success stories (Venice Time Machine, Making and Knowing Project). However, when it comes to take embodied knowledge under the microscope, the documents reach their limits. New interesting questions are then faced, regarding both the study of ancient documents, and the new documents we are producing as scholars. Let’s explore new ways! Have a read to an interesting project of Dr. Benjamin Spatz willing to offer new platforms to communicate embodied research today (Journal of Embodied Research) and stay tuned for the publication of the first issue!
Abbot, Alison (2017). The ‘time machine’ reconstructing ancient Venice’s social networks. Nature, News Feature https://www.nature.com/articles/n-12446262
2. Carlyle, Leslie, and Witlox, Maartjee (2007). Historically Accurate Reconstructions of Artists’ Oil Painting Materials. Tate Papers 7. http://www.tate.org.uk/research/publications/tate-papers/07/historically-accurate-reconstructions-of-artists-oil-painting-materials
3. Making and Knowing Project http://www.makingandknowing.org/
4. Jaquet, Daniel, Verelst, Karin, and Dawson Timothy, eds. (2016). Late Medieval and Early Modern Fight Books. Leyden, Brill. http://www.brill.com/products/book/late-medieval-and-early-modern-fight-books
5. Historical European Martial Arts http://ifhema.com/
6. Burkart, Eric (2016). Die Aufzeichnung des Nicht-Sagbaren. Annäherung an die kommunikative Funktion der Bilder in den Fechtbüchern des Hans Talhofer. in: Uwe Israel/Christian Jaser (Hrsg.), Zweikämpfer. Fechtmeister – Kämpen – Samurai (Das Mittelalter 19/2) https://www.academia.edu/25388370/Die_Aufzeichnung_des_Nicht-Sagbaren._Ann%C3%A4herung_an_die_kommunikative_Funktion_der_Bilder_in_den_Fechtb%C3%BCchern_des_Hans_Talhofer_in_Uwe_Israel_Christian_Jaser_Hrsg._Zweik%C3%A4mpfer._Fechtmeister_K%C3%A4mpen_Samurai_Das_Mittelalter_19_2_Berlin_2014_S._253_301
7. Jaquet, Daniel (2016).Range of motion and energy cost of locomotion of the late medieval armoured fighter: A proof of concept of confronting the medieval technical literature with modern movement analysis. Historical Methods 49/3. http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/01615440.2015.1112753
8. Journal of Embodied Research https://jer.openlibhums.org/
Daniel Jaquet is a medievalist (PhD in Medieval History, University of Geneva 2013), specialised in Historical European Martial Arts studies. He is the editor of the peer-reviewed journal Acta Periodica Duellatorum [add the link please: www.actaperiodicaduellatorum.com] and has recently co-edited: Late Medieval and Early Modern Fight Books (Brill, coll. History of Warfare 112, 2016).
PhD student, University of Bath
I attended the GW4 Document Analysis training day in Cardiff. I was really pleased to be able to be part of the day as I certainly agreed with the premise that, although research is increasingly being conducted using documents as data, there isn’t a lot of clarity around potential analysis techniques, nor the epistemological assumptions behind different methods.
I’m a 1 + 3 PhD student studying Health and Wellbeing at the University of Bath. I’m working within the Tobacco Control Research Group, investigating corporate influence on science.
As Aimee Grant outlined in her presentation, tobacco control research is a site of much documentary analysis work. This is because of legal action in the US in the ‘90s which meant that millions of internal tobacco documents were made publicly available. The documents research that this led to has brought insights into the ways in which the tobacco industry has attempted to influence science, affect public discourse, and ultimately, influence policymaking decisions. My research is now looking at corporate influence on science and the use of science in policymaking more broadly, across different sectors (such as alcohol, fast food, and industries contributing to pollution and climate change). Documents will play an important role in my PhD, so this GW4 workshop was very relevant to the work I’ll be doing.
Throughout the day I particularly welcomed discussion on the need to have greater specificity between analysis techniques, as I had found through previous reading that this could be a sticky issue. Of course there is often overlap between methods, but working out how they are distinct helps to pinpoint what exactly you want to do with your data, and how.
The idea of ‘slow scholarship’ in science, which George Jennings introduced, is something which feels very topical. With researchers increasingly encouraged to think in ‘real time’ (through Twitter, etc.) and keep up with the speed of policymaking, it was good to hear George remind us all that science is a ‘marathon not a sprint’. Finding more time for reflection on our own perspectives and research findings remains important. This may be easier said than done in a busy world, however!
As an interdisciplinary student working in a field where both realist and constructionist forms of research exist alongside each other, it was interesting to hear about Jonathan Scourfield’s oscillation between paradigms throughout his career. It seems that academics often have less linear career paths than it may first appear, so it’s great that people are happy to talk about that and shed some light on how they came to be working both on their particular subject areas and through particular paradigmatic lenses.
Emilie Whitaker led us through a critical analysis workshop where we began to analyse a political speech, dissecting it to find underlying ideologies and rhetoric. I found Emilie’s lecture really helpful to understand that in this type of research, analysis techniques are not necessarily tied to particular epistemologies. For example, critical analysis of documents could be led by Marxist or feminist thought where the focus is on issues of hegemony. The same documents could be interpreted in any number of other ways, including through a Foucauldian lens where the focus may be more concerned with knowledge as power and how status is given to science, for example.
Days like this are great as you get to talk to other PhD students about their research, discuss your own, and learn from experienced academics. I’m sure there would be lots of interest in more documentary analysis training. I’m looking forward to hearing more about the Documents Research Network, and have been spreading the word.
Thank you to Maria, Fryni, Aimee, George, Emilie, and Jonathan for a great day!
PhD student, University of Exeter
The Methodological approaches to document analysis in Social Sciences workshop at the University of Cardiff was a watershed in my development as a professional doctorate studying at the University of Exeter and working at the University of Bath.
There was something about the workshop, and perhaps about my maturity as a doctoral student (I started in 2013, completed the pre-thesis stage in 2015 and am now working on the thesis), that meant I felt able to participate, and even contribute, at an event like this for the first time.
So, what of document analysis and its relationship to my research?
My supervisor suggested documentary analysis to supplement a predominantly autoethnographic study situated in my professional area, the teaching of English for academic purposes. Publicly-sourced documents, largely from the Internet, have three advantages for me: they play to the critical approach I aspire to, they enjoy the potential to circumvent some of the ethical issues inherent in my topic, and they offer the potential to both corroborate the evidence of my context and broaden its application.
Dr Emilie Whitaker’s presentation on The critical turn: an introduction to the work of documents in political framing was what had attracted me to the workshop. I was not disappointed. It was both stimulating and inspirational to see critical research in action in a new context. Emilie’s practical session in the afternoon, analysing a David Cameron speech, and the discussion about how our insights could be presented academically gave me just the push I needed to start actually writing that part of my thesis.
Ultimately, the presentations and the conversations helped me to realise that document analysis is an emerging methodology and that there are different ways to approach it. In this regard, I particularly liked Emilie’s English Language/English Literature analogy: the potential validity of a “literary” approach appeals to me in the context of my research.
That said, Dr Aimee Grant’s Why documents are amazing and how they can be used in social research did provide a useful starting point methodologically. I was pleased I chose to go to Aimee’s session in the afternoon about infant formula marketing material to see this in practice, which again led to a helpful discussion about how such insights could be presented academically.
Given that my research makes use of website material, Dr George Jennings’s presentation on Taking a slow look at “messy” documents: reflections from a decade of martial arts research was also very relevant. Looking at documents from a wider perspective that simply text is something I will be doing in my research.
Finally, although not an academic point, another thing I took away from the day was its organisation. Thanks to Maria Pournara and Fryni Kostara for putting together a perfectly-paced day. I intend to make use of the pacing in my 2018 teacher induction week. Too bad 2017’s had already been fixed!
I’ll be honest – when I first started my PhD, I wasn’t planning to use documents as data. I envisaged a mixed-methods or even experimental design to explore the influence of rationality and bias on police decision-making in tackling organised crime. I was thinking of documents as something that would probably be part of my literature review; legislation or policy documents that drive decision-making, but not as ‘proper’, juicy, qualitative data. Even when, in a scoping interview with a potential participant during my first year, he showed me these documents (that I have now spent almost two years studying, analysing and reflecting on), I still thought ‘they look interesting, maybe they’ll be worth a read’. When I ran my first thematic analysis on them a few weeks later, I decided that they can be part of my theoretical framework and inform the next, ‘real’ part of my research. What I wasn’t realising, was that the documents – as any data inevitably does – had already driven my research to a different direction than the one I was hopelessly trying to hold on to. I didn’t happen to find them, they found me; and were begging to be discovered.
Reflecting on this first encounter with the reports that are now some of the units of analysis in my PhD, I realise that I had adopted the same misconception as many other social researchers who view documents as resources to gather information rather than as data which should be viewed as ‘collective social products’ (Prior, 2003). Documents are of particular importance in criminological research where typically impenetrable groups and organisations such as law enforcement or police forces might be difficult for students to access. The annual reports these agencies are required to produce, like the ones I’m analysing, can provide a plethora of detailed information on the structure and activities of an organisation (Noaks & Wincup, 2004). They can also reveal a great deal about the force’s relative priorities on crime control and their changes over time which is what I am trying to untangle in my research.
This unexpected shift towards documentary methods has motivated me to organise a workshop on methodological approaches to document analysis funded by the GW4 alliance which brings together the universities of Cardiff, Bristol, Bath and Exeter and aims to provide researcher-led and innovative training to postgraduate students, among many other objectives. As a result I have already networked with many postgraduate researchers who are using, considering or have a general interest in documents as data. It has become evident to me that document analysis is one of the most widely used methods in social sciences research, yet even the training available to postgraduate researchers is very limited. This can be mainly attributed to a general attitude among social scientists that documents are merely ‘common sense’ versions of social phenomena that do not necessitate any particularly sophisticated scientific approach and analysis. As a result, many doctoral researchers do not feel entirely confident about using documents as data (they might only use them as resources instead) and do not reap their advantages: their ‘richness’ (Atkinson and Coffey (2011) argue that they form their distinct forms of ‘documentary realities’), demonstrations of ‘relevance and effect’, the fact that they are ‘naturally occurring’, and of course their ‘availability’ (Silverman, 2014).
I am confident that the DRN will be an extremely useful platform for all these researchers to network, find training opportunities, seek support and information about methodological approaches to documents and generally discover their awesomeness to use as data – just like I did.
Atkinson, P., & Coffey, A. (2011). Analysing documentary realities. In D. Silverman, Qualitative Research (pp. 56-75). London: Sage.
Noaks, L., & Wincup, E. (2004). Criminological Research - Understanding Qualitative Methods. London: Sage.
Prior, L. (2003). Using documents in Social Research. London: Sage.
Silverman, D. (2014). Doing Qualitative Research. London: Sage.
I was pleasantly surprised when Aimee Grant offered me to co-convene this blog and group. I couldn’t hide the smile on my face when I checked my emails during a mid-class break. We had only properly chatted after her thought-provoking seminar for the Ethnography Study Group that I attend at Cardiff University. After exchanging some literature and ideas on using documents as data sources and in mixed qualitative methods designs, I was delighted to be one of the lucky few to soon look at some of Aimee’s forthcoming book chapters. Aimee was kind in considering me part of the Cardiff group, and her welcome showed the strength of cross-university thinking and collaboration. I hope that my different, yet complementary, academic background and experience with documents-based research and other qualitative methods approaches will help provide a balanced, interdisciplinary perspective.
I must confess that I never studied anthropology or sociology on a formal basis. Instead, I read exercise and sport sciences at the University of Exeter, and continued to postgraduate level, where I specialised in the sociology of sport and qualitative research of physical culture as part of the former Qualitative Research Unit (QRU). My PhD, which investigated the experiences of long-term practitioners of Chinese martial arts (Jennings, 2010), involved a life history approach, which followed from my previous ethnographic study of a Wing Chun Kung Fu association (Jennings, Brown & Sparkes, 2010). Up to that point, I had encountered the use of documents in martial arts cultures through the circulation of pirated DVD instructional tapes among core members of the said association, and the photocopied (and equally copyrighted!) syllabi of certain groups that marked the right of passage as new members. During my subsequent doctoral research, numerous participants eagerly mentioned the names of authors, websites and associations that were recommended for me to better understand their lifeworlds and social practices. However, due to the depth and density of the interview and observational data, I have to admit that I overlooked this possibility of using broader documents of life.
At a later point, when I had already written some articles and chapters using the interview and fieldwork data as an independent researcher and English teacher in Mexico, new possibilities emerged for me to return to the data sources cited by my former research participants. In Jennings (2014), I combined case study interviewee data with an examination of the official websites of their martial arts institutions. Within the same special edition of the open-access journal Societies, I published another article with my former PhD supervisors on a Tai Chi Chuan association and its cosmopolitan approach towards an environmental awareness (Brown, Jennings & Sparkes, 2014). Not long after that, I was able to look at new cases, as one of my students and I engaged in an analysis of an online petition calling for greater gender equality in terms of weight categories for female Olympic boxers that considered the narratives of legacy of London 2012 (Jennings & Cabrera, 2015).
Shortly before my return to the UK and full-time academia to work at Cardiff Metropolitan University, I teamed up with a colleague at the Health Advancement Research Team (HART) for a pedagogical study of the use of digital documents and media before, during and after formal Kung Fu training sessions – first published as lengthy blog article (Jennings & Vaittinen, 2016). This project coincided with another analysis of the official Facebook group, YouTube channel and website of the Xilam Mexican Martial Arts Association in terms of its engagement with the idea of a deeper, hidden Mesoamerican civilisation driving the destiny of the country (Jennings, 2016), which has now paved the way for several ongoing articles, invited talks and conference papers on the invention of this and various other Mexican fighting systems. These will continue to scrutinise the discourses, narratives and core philosophies of these emerging groups with the assistance of cultural and anthropological theory. Finally, I am fortunate to have been invited to write a chapter (Jennings, Forthcoming a) on the concept of sexuality as seen through the Aztec philosophy that is embodied in Xilam, using a strategy which juxtaposes observations, personal interviews and analysis of shared online documents. This coincides with another invited contribution on Mexican conchero dance as embodied, living heritage (Jennings, Forthcoming b) – a case study focusing on an archive lecture “The Path of Quetzalcoatl” given by the late shaman, university professor and pre-Hispanic dance pioneer, Andres Segura Granados.
Brown, D., Jennings, G. & Sparkes, A.C. (2014). Taijiquan the ‘Taiji World’ way: Towards a cosmopolitan vision of ecology. Societies, 4(3), 380-398.
Jennings, G. (Forthcoming a). Aspects of Mexican sexuality in the martial art of Xilam. In J. Piedra (Ed.), LGBTIQ people in Latin American sport. New York: Springer.
Jennings, G. (Forthcoming). Crossing borders and forms of heritage: Following the path of Quetzalcoatl of Andres Segura’s Conchero Dance. In V. Lo Iacono (Ed.), Dance as living, embodied heritage.
Jennings, G. (2016). Ancient wisdom, modern warriors: The (re)invention of a warrior tradition in Xilam. Martial Arts Studies, 2, 59-70.
Jennings, G. (2015). Transmitting health philosophies through the traditionalist Chinese martial arts in the UK. Societies, 4(4), 712-736.
Jennings, G. (2010). Fighters, thinkers and shared cultivation: Experiencing transformation through the long-term practice of traditionalist Chinese martial arts. Unpublished PhD thesis, University of Exeter.
Jennings, G., Brown, D. & Sparkes, A.C. (2010). “It can be a religion if you want”: Wing Chun Kung Fu as a secular religion. Ethnography, 11(4), 533-557.
Jennings, G. & Cabrera, B. (2015). Gender inequality in Olympic boxing: Exploring structuration through the online resistance to weight category restrictions. In A. Channon & C. Matthews (Eds.), Women Warriors: International Perspectives on Women in Combat Sports (pp. 89-103). Palgrave MacMillan.
Jennings, G. & Vaittinen, A. (2016). Mediated transformation: The role of multimedia in Wing Chun pedagogies. In www.chinesemartialstudies.com (Kung Fu Tea blog).
I’ve had a long-standing interest in using documents as data. However, it has taken me several years to fully explore the potential within documents that I have collected as part of research projects. For example, I can now see that within my PhD thesis (Grant, 2011), I did not undertake a reflexive and critical enough view when working with NHS patient files to fully explore their meanings.
In recent years, I have also been able to move beyond more quantitative, content analysis based, approaches, see for example Grant (2015), into a consideration of more discourse related analysis strategies, for example Grant (2016) where I undertook further analysis of the data within Grant (2015).
Over the past three years, I have returned to critically interrogate the documents collected as part of my doctoral studies alongside observational and interview data collected. In doing so, and in undertaking new projects using documents as data (Grant & Hoyle, 2017; Grant, Mannay, & Marzella, 2017; Grant & O’Mahoney, 2016; Meek, Hurt, & Grant, 2015) I have grown increasingly confident in understanding how projects which use documents as data should be designed, including elements such as sampling, data quality and analysis techniques.
Whenever I have presented my research using documents as data, I have mostly had small to moderate sized audiences, but they were very engaged and hoping to learn methodological lessons that they could apply to their own work, such as at the British Sociological Association medical sociology conference 2016. As a result of this, I have written a case study with an accompanying practice data set for the SAGE Research Methods Platform guide on undertaking critical discourse analysis with documents (Grant, 2017).
I am further addressing this gap through writing an accessible ‘how to guide’ for research involving documents, to be published by Routledge in 2018 (Grant, 2018).
In March 2017, I presented a draft of a methods paper I am preparing for peer review, based on an expanded analysis of the documents in my doctoral research, to the ethnography research group at Cardiff University. In the audience, there were many PhD students and early career researchers who wanted additional guidance on how to use the documents that they had collected.
I decided that it was time to bring together a research network. I had already previously written a small advert in the British Sociological Association Network Magazine for those with an interest in using documents as data to contact me, in order to set up a BSA special interest group. However, discussion following the ethnography group highlighted the interdisciplinary nature of these challenges.
As such, I decided that an independent network would be most beneficial, and I asked Dr George Jennings, a researcher with a wide range of experience in using documents as data, to co-convene the network with me.
We hope that you find the network useful in your research.
Grant, A. (2011). New Labour, Welfare Reform and Conditionality: Pathways to Work for Incapacity Benefit Claimants. Phd thesis: Cardiff University.
Grant, A. (2015). “#discrimination”: the online response to a case of a breastfeeding mother being ejected from a UK retail premises. Journal of Human Lactation, 32(1), 141–151. https://doi.org/10.1177/0890334415592403
Grant, A. (2016). “I… don’t want to see you flashing your bits around”: Exhibitionism, othering and good motherhood in perceptions of public breastfeeding. Geoforum, 71(May 2016), 52–61.
Grant, A. (2017). Analysing online news comments using critical discourse analysis. SAGE Research Methods Platform. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781473999138
Grant, A. (2018). Doing EXCELLENT social research with documents: Practical examples and guidance for qualitative researchers. Abingdon: Routledge.
Grant, A., & Hoyle, L. (2017). Print media representations of United Kingdom Accident and Emergency treatment targets: winter 2014-15. Journal of Clinical Nursing. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocn.13772
Grant, A., Mannay, D., & Marzella, R. (2017). “People try and police your behaviour”: the impact of surveillance on mothers’ and grandmothers’ perceptions and experiences of infant feeding. Families, Relationships and Societies.
Grant, A., & O’Mahoney, H. (2016). The portrayal of waterpipe (shisha, hookah, nargile) smoking on Twitter: a qualitative exploration. Public Health.
Meek, A., Hurt, L., & Grant, A. (2015). An Independent Evaluation of The Filter. Cardiff: ASH Wales.