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January 8, 2015 / C H Thompson

Personal documents

Diaries; letters; etc which provide a rich source of qualitative data on feeling; motives etc


  • Provide a rich insight into a person’s feelings and motivations
  • They are usual in providing insights where no other data exists such as being held captive
  • They are often the only insight sociologists have into the past such as war veterans diaries or letters home
  • Personal documents can supplement official data such as school performance. A school might be high in league tables but pupils dislike the regime in which they learn


  • They are a one person view of events which can be biased in order to justify a person’s actions and therefore invalid
  • The data is likely to be unreliable
  • The data is likely to be unrepresentative
  • The authenticity of the data is open to question
  • The sociologist might interpret the data in a way the author never intended

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