21. TheSociologicalUsePersonalDocuments.docx - A2...

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A2 Sociology: A2 Sociology: Theory andMethodsInterpretivist Research MethodsSecondary data - DocumentsPersonal DocumentsThese are usually made up of written texts includingdiaries, letters andother expressive documentssuch asbiographies andautobiographies. These can provide a sociologist with arich source ofqualitativedata, i.e. aboutexperiences, feelings, attitudes,emotions, motives for behaviouretc. They can be contemporary orhistorical.Strengths of PersonalDocumentsWeaknesses of PersonalDocumentsThey are acheap source of largeamounts of qualitative databecausesomeone else has already gathered theinformation.It is not always possible togain accesstodocuments such as diaries becausepeople regard them asprivate andconfidential. For example, the nature ofcriminal activity means thatfewcriminals leave personal records thatmay incriminate themand leave themopen to prosecution.They are often used tosupplementquantitative secondary datasuch asofficial statistics, e.g. a judge’s diary orletters can be used to support statisticsabout the treatment of criminals.There is always the danger of suchdocuments beingbiasedand thereforeinvalidbecause the person doing thewriting might want tojustifytheir actionsand consequently he or she maynotpresent an objectiveview of thesituation. Such documents are alwaysgoing to be toosubjective.Such documents can give arich,detailed and validinsight into theeverydayexperiences, attitudes,feelings and practices of criminals orcriminal justice officials whilst in theirnatural criminal or legalenvironment.There may be doubts about theauthenticityand therefore the validity ofthe document – letters and diaries can beforged, e.g. the Hitler diaries.

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Term
Spring
Professor
N/A
Tags
Centre for Crime Justice Studies

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