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Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation, 4th Edition by Elizabeth J. Tisdell, Sharan B. Merriam

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Chapter SevenMining Data from Documents and Artifacts

Interviewing and observing are two data collection strategies designed to gather data that specifically address the research question. Documents and artifacts that are part of the research setting are also sources of data in qualitative research. These are most typically a natural part of the research setting and do not intrude upon or alter the setting in the ways that the presence of the investigator might when conducting interviews or observations. Documents and artifacts are, in fact, a ready-made source of data easily accessible to the imaginative and resourceful investigator. These types of data sources can exist in both a physical setting and an online setting.

This chapter examines the nature of documents and artifacts, their use in qualitative research, and their limitations and strengths. Document is often used as an umbrella term to refer to a wide range of written, visual, digital, and physical material relevant to the study (including visual images). Artifacts are usually three-dimensional physical “things” or objects in the environment that represent some form of communication that is meaningful to participants and/or the setting. Examples might be art pieces, organizational or school symbols, trophies, awards, or personal gifts, to name a few.

Most documents and artifacts exist prior to commencing the research study at hand. Common documents include official records, organizational promotional materials, letters, ...

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