I have found, that some Slavic sociologies (namely Czech and Russian) recognize "document analysis" as a research method,(1)(2)(3)(4) but I was not able to determine, whether such a term or method exists in English or global sociology. The Czech Sociological Encyclopedia created by the Czech Academy of Sciences mentions(1) some translations of document analysis (in the Czech language analyza dokumentu ) to other languages. So in English, it should be "document analysis" or "document research" in French "analyse des documents" and for example in German "Dokumentenanalyse". I was not able to look into the references, which are provided as a source for this article, so first I searched for the term via Web of Science and ProQuest. Then I read some of the sources and it seem to me, they used these words as a description of what they did, not as a name for a certain method. And for example, The Practice of Social Research by Earl Babbie(5) doesn't mention it at all.

So from my literature review of Czech scientific literature, "document analysis" in sociology is not a literature review. Authors like Hendl,(4) Surynek,(3) or Russian Rutkevich(6) (translation) point out that it is a "surface" study of primary documents, which one may later study via content analysis, to get in touch with the documents and determine the research question. It is close to "indication analyses" determined by Czech information science literature, e.g. Kovar,(7) as a study of a document to provide some information about the document (for example to add meta information to the library database).

== References ==

  • (1) Burianek, Jiri. 2018. Analyza dokumentu. Institute of Sociology, Czech Academy of Sciences. Source: https://encyklopedie.soc.cas.cz/w/Anal%C3%BDza_dokument%C5%AF
  • (2) Disman, Miroslav. 2002. Jak se vyrabi sociologicka znalost. Karolinum. Prague. ISBN 80-246-0139-7 p. 131
  • (3) Surynek, Alois; Komarkova, Ruzena and Kasparova, Eva. 2001. Zaklady sociologického vyzkumu. Management Press, Prague. ISBN 80-7261-038-4 p. 130-140
  • (4) Hendl, Jan. 1999. Uvod do kvalitativního vyzkumu. Karolinum. Prague. ISBN 80-246-0030-7 p. 64-65
  • (5) Babbie, Earl. 2014. The Practice of Social Research. Cengage Learning. Boston. ISBN: 978-1-305-10494-5
  • (6) Rutkevich, Michail Nikolayevich. 1980. Prirucka pro sociology. Svoboda. Prague. p. 370 (translated from рабочная книга социолога. 1977. Nauka, Moscow)
  • (7) Kovar, Blahoslav. 1974. Obsahova analyza dokumentu. UVTEI, Prague. p. 16-19

Note: Originally I wanted to place this question to Polics SE, because as there is no sociology SE, I have followed the answers on Meta,(I, II, III) that sociology topics belong here. But as I wasn't able to determine which tag to use, I am leaving the question here with tags methodology and social-science which seem to be appropriate for this topic.

1 Answer 1


Short answer: content analysis (Babbie, 2021) of 'documents'.
Refer to Altheide (1987) for ethnographic approach to document analysis.

Documentary analysis or document analysis is a worthwhile 'method' when it is justified in the methodological approach.

  • I'll refrain from the discourse of philosophy, methodology and methods being lumped together or substituted for eachother

When looking at Earl Babbie (The Practice of Social Research), it might be worthwhile to also looked at Saunders et al. (I think it's currently in the 9th edition).

There are instances of document analysis being referred to or used as or used within content analysis. I'm not in support though.
One might get a hint of why this came to be if we look at how context analysis was examined in Kohlbacher (2006).
In-between, Kohlbacher made mention of document and record analysis.

Babbie (2021, fig 11.1) is not far off.
Rubin and Babbie (2016, p. 339) made reference to document analysis

Babbie, E. R. (2020). The practice of social research. (15th ed). 15 Ed. Cengage learning.

Kohlbacher, F. (2006). The use of qualitative content analysis in case study research. In Forum qualitative sozialforschung/forum: Qualitative social research (Vol. 7, No. 1, pp. 1-30). Institut fur Klinische Sychologie and Gemeindesychologie.

Saunders, M., Thornhill, A., & Lewis, P. (2023). Research Methods for Business Students. (9th ed).

Rubin, A., & Babbie, E. R. (2016). Empowerment series: Research methods for social work. Cengage Learning.

Altheide, D. L. (1987). Reflections: Ethnographic content analysis. Qualitative sociology, 10(1), 65-77.

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