Document analysis has been an underused approach to qualitative research. This approach can be valuable for various reasons. When used to analyze pre-existing texts, this method allows researchers to conduct studies they might otherwise not be able to complete. Some researchers may not have the resources or time needed to do field research. Although videoconferencing technology and other types of software can be used to reduce some of the obstacles qualitative researchers sometimes encounter, these tools are associated with various problems. Participants might be unskillful in using technology or may not be able to afford it. Conducting a document analysis can also reduce some of the ethical concerns associated with other qualitative methods. Since document analysis is a valuable research method, one would expect to find a wide variety of literature on this topic. Unfortunately, the literature on documentary research is scant. This paper is designed to close the gap in the literature on conducting a qualitative document analysis by focusing on the advantages and limitations of using documents as a source of data and providing strategies for selecting documents. It also offers reasons for using reflexive thematic analysis and includes a hypothetical example of how a researcher might conduct a document analysis.


document analysis, qualitative inquiry, reflexive thematic analysis

Author Bio(s)

Hani Morgan is a professor of education at the University of Southern Mississippi. He received his doctorate in Social and Philosophical Foundations of Education from Rutgers University. Morgan is the author of The World’s Highest-Scoring Students and the co-editor of The World Leaders in Education. He has also authored and co-authored more than 60 journal articles. Much of his research focuses on how various factors related to the learning environment affect students. Please direct correspondence to: University of Southern Mississippi, 118 College Drive #5057, Hattiesburg, MS 39406-0001; Email: Hani.Morgan@usm.edu.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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