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Texts as Data I: Document Analysis

  • Kari Karppinen
  • Hallvard Moe
Chapter

Abstract

Collecting and analyzing policy and industry documents is a basic part of most media policy research. The convenience of using existing material produced by public or private institutions can make the use of such documents seem relatively straightforward. However, the selection of relevant documents, their availability, collection and analysis also present methodological problems that researchers need to be aware of. In this chapter, we discuss different understandings of what ‘documents’ are and review basic approaches to collecting and using policy and industry documents in media policy research. We then reflect on the advantages and hazards associated with collecting and using documents as research material. We emphasize the blurred nature of the distinction between ‘primary’ documents and ‘secondary’ interpretation, and point out that documents are always socially produced. All policy and industry documents frame issues in a certain light and only present one perspective into the issues and possible solutions, thus necessitating source criticism. Furthermore, the relative ease of accessing documentary sources does not mean that all potentially relevant documents (e.g. internal company documents) are equally readily available to researchers. In many contexts, access to documents can be deliberately blocked or limited. Using documents also entails limitations that stem from challenges with transparency and comparability. Finally, we note that documents leave silences: focusing on the visible exercise of official power, policy documents usually do not cover radical alternatives and policy options never considered in the first place. After discussing these challenges, the chapter presents a step-by-step process of collecting documents, from research design to accessing the documents, illustrated with the help of two cases studies.

References

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Further Reading

  1. Altheide, D., & Schneider, C. (2013). Process of qualitative document analysis. In D. Altheide & C. Schneider (Eds.), Qualitative media analysis (2nd ed.). London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), 27–40.  https://doi.org/10.3316/qrj0902027.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Freedman, D. (2010). Media policy silences: The hidden face of communications decision making. The International Journal of Press/Politics, 15(3), 344–361.  https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161210368292.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Karppinen, K., & Moe, H. (2012). What we talk about when we talk about document analysis. In N. Just & M. Puppis (Eds.), Trends in communication policy research new theories, methods and subjects. Bristol: Intellect.Google Scholar
  5. Scott, J. (Ed.). (2006). Documentary research. London: Sage.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kari Karppinen
    • 1
  • Hallvard Moe
    • 2
  1. 1.Media and Communication StudiesUniversity of HelsinkiHelsinkiFinland
  2. 2.Department of Information Science and Media StudiesUniversity of BergenBergenNorway

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