Timetable information in the Course Catalogue may be subject to change.

University Homepage
DRPS Homepage
DRPS Search
DRPS Contact
DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: The Documents of Life (PGSP11302)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummarySocial life is saturated by 'documents of life' both offline and online. They include diaries, autobiographies and letters; personal web pages or Facebook pages, policy documents, government statements and news releases; academic research reports, data-sets and published articles; the leaflets and advertisements of organisations such as banks and food-chains; and the forms and requirements of institutions such as schools, universities and government departments. Documents of life provide social researchers with a real-world laboratory of texts of written, oral, visual and other kinds that help make up 'life as we know it'. This course provides a practical hands-on 'toolkit' mixed-methods approach to analysing these documents, by using documentary, visual, narrative, discourse & institutional ethnography methodologies. Its aims are to engage analytically with the documents of life and provide confidence in actually using methodologies to analyse 'real-world' examples.
Course description Documents of Life introduces graduate students to key ideas and methodological considerations gained through the practical analysis of ¿documents of life¿. Social life is saturated by such documents. These range from the biographical and local to the institutional and global. They include diaries, letters; Facebook pages; policy documents and the forms and requirements of institutions such as schools, universities and government departments.

Outline content

1. Introduction
This introductory session will offer an overview of the course, discuss 'Documents of Life' and introduce the idea of a 'toolkit approach'.

2. and 3. Beginning to Analyse Documents
These two sessions introduce key ways of thinking about documents within a 'documents of life' framework. These will be used to revisit the 'toolkit' introduced in week 1 and the class will work in small groups to begin to address the first document for analysis.

4. and 5. Doing Visual Analysis
These are two workshop sessions concerned with visual analysis within a 'documents of life' framework. Some basic ideas from the reading will be discussed, including that 'visual analysis' includes objects and the material world as well as 'naturally-occurring' and researcher-generated two dimensional representations. The 'toolkit' will be revisited in light of these ideas. The analytical assignment will be discussed and then analysed by the teams.

6. and 7. Discourse and Narrative Analysis
These are two workshop sessions concerned with discourse analysis and narrative analysis within a 'documents of life' framework. As in previous workshop sessions, some basic ideas from the readings will be reviewed and related to the current state of the emerging methodological toolkit. The analytical assignments will be discussed and then analysed by the teams.

8. and 9. Doing Archival Research
An introduction to what is an archive, and explore how the nature of the archive is being refigured through community activism, through the affordances of digital technologies and through challenges to the inviolability of ¿official¿ documents. We will explore how archival professional practice can determine what lives are found in the archive and which lives are marginalised. And we will discuss how to find and enter archives and what to do after entry. This will include how to manage the sometimes overwhelming scale of the archive and how to begin to analyse the wealth of materials and explore ways in which archived data can be used in new research projects.

10. A Methodological Toolkit for Documents of Life Research
What are the components of the methodological toolkit for documents of life research that have come out of the workshop analyses and discussions of these? With hindsight, are there more things that could usefully be added now? How does this documents of life toolkit compare with how mixed- and multi- methods approaches are presented?

The course is run as a series of participatory research training workshops which combines an over view of relevant methodology readings and hands on analysis of a selection of 'documents of life' for each of the kinds of data analysis it is concerned with. The commitment to group work means that Documents of Life is not available for audit. it aims to deliver an understanding of, and experience in, using a toolkit of approaches and methodologies, and also to promote a range of transferable skills which students can use in the framework of postgraduate level studies and also graduate-level employment contexts.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Develop a broad understanding of 'documents of life' research and an awareness of key ideas in the field
  2. Identify a variety of methodological approaches and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses
  3. Critically deploy (orally in the workshops and in writing through exercises and the final assessment) the range of methodological approaches to the analysis of 'documents of life' data
  4. Identify how documents of life research sits with other social science methodologies
  5. Develop an understanding of ethics as tied to research processes and analytical activities and not just programmatic statements
Reading List
Davis, M (2013) 'Doing research on and through digital media' in Andrews, M, Squire, C and Tamboukou, M ( eds) Doing Narrative Research Sage London
Page,R.; Harper, R. and Forbenius, M (2013) 'From small stories to networked narrative' Narrative Inquiry 23:1
Ken Plummer (2001, 2nd edition) Documents of Life 2 London Sage
Liz Stanley (ed) (2013) Documents of Life revisited. Surrey: Ashgate
Brian Roberts (2001) Biographical Research Buckingham: Open University Press
Lindsay Prior (2003) Using Documents in Social Research London: Sage
Gary McCullouch (2004, new edition) Documentary Research London: Routledge
Gillian Rose (2006, 2nd edition) Visual Methodologies London: Sage
Marcus Banks (2008) Using Visual Data in Qualitative Research London: Sage
Claudia Mitchell (2011) Doing Visual Research London: Sage
Jane Elliott (2005) Using Narrative in Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches London: Sage
Catherine Kohler Riessman (2008) Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences London: Sage
Kathleen Wells (2011) Narrative Inquiry Oxford: Oxford University Press
Norman Fairclough (2003) Analysing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research London: Routledge
James Paul Gee (2011) How to Do Discourse Analysis: A Toolkit London: Routledge
Niamh Moore, Andrea Salter, Liz Stanley and Maria. Tamboukou (2016) The Archive Project: Archival Research in the Social Sciences Routledge
D. Mannay, J. Fink, & H. Lomax, (2020). Visual Ethnography. In P. Atkinson, S. Delamont, A. Cernat, J.W. Sakshaug, & R.A. Williams (Eds.), SAGE Research Methods Foundations
Cook, T. (2013) Evidence, memory, identity, and community: four shifting archival paradigms. Arch Sci 13, 95¿120
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills 1. Taking responsibility for undertaking core and shared activities.
2. Organisational skills in working in team contexts, organising divisions of labour, and agreeing hands-on shared working strategies.
2. Group and inter-personal skills in working cooperatively with peers, developing shared stratagems and trading ideas and competencies.
4. Individual skills and ability in planning and executing a larger piece of individual work.
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Julie Brownlie
Tel: (0131 6)51 3917
Course secretaryMr Mark Mather
Help & Information
Search DPTs and Courses
Degree Programmes
Browse DPTs
Humanities and Social Science
Science and Engineering
Medicine and Veterinary Medicine
Other Information
Combined Course Timetable
Important Information