Register for the workshop HERE
Registration deadline: May 15th 2021

MAYS Training Workshop

We are announcing a call for participants for our second workshop in the MAYS Method Workshops Series – a workshop on Documents in Social Research that will take place on the 28th of June 2021 from 13:00 to 16:00 CET. The Workshops Series aims to provide spaces for learning, discussion, structured debate, knowledge-sharing and mutual support leading up to our next 12th Annual MAYS Annual Meeting in Warsaw in August.

Margret Jaeger, Assistant Professor, Sigmund Freud University, Vienna. Email:

MAYS Training workshop: Using Documents for Social Research // June 28th, 13:00-pm CET

Social scientists often use “documents” for research purposes. Based on Prior (2011), documents can be: 1) Documents containing text (words) and images that have been recorded without the intervention of a researcher. For example minutes, diaries, protocols, agendas, brochures, event programs, charts, newspapers, press releases, survey data, etc.; 2) Social facts that are produced, shared, and used in socially organised ways (Atkinson and Coffey 1997: 47); also cultural artefacts such as monuments, works of art, etc. Bowen (2009: 29) argues as follows:

“The rationale for document analysis lies in its role in methodological and data triangulation, the immense value of documents in case study research, and its usefulness as a stand-alone method for specialised forms of qualitative research. Understandably, documents may be the only necessary data source for studies designed with an interpretive paradigm, as in hermeneutic inquiry; or it may simply be the only viable source, as in historical or cross-cultural research. In other types of research, the investigator should guard against over-reliance on documents.”

Does it matter who the author was (if known)? Was it work on demand (press photographs for a city government versus a citizen´s private picture from the same event?) Why was something produced? What happened after its first use? Why was it considered important and therefore kept for the future, and where did this happen until we discovered it? With which technology was it produced? Was it easy to find and was it possible to access it? Are we able to read/see/understand it (with or without a translator or due to bad handwriting or paper quality)?

As a methods trainer for (future) healthcare professionals, I discovered Prior’s book some years ago and it changed my way of approaching documents in research fundamentally. Consequently, I also train undergraduate and postgraduate students in this method, because in our professional lives most of us will deal with many documents, especially those working in healthcare – we analyse and produce documents from different perspectives for different purposes. I consider this approach useful for any future job perspective, to broaden our view of “documents”.


  • Atkinson, P. A. & Coffey, A. (1997). Analysing documentary realities. In D. Silverman (Ed.), Qualitative research: Theory, method and practice, London: Sage, 45–62.
  • Bowen, G. A. (2009). Document analysis as a qualitative research method. Qualitative research journal, 9(2), 27-40.
  • Prior, Lindsay (2003, last reprint 2011) Using Documents in Social Research.

Guidelines and Format

This workshop lasts three hours with breaks. It consists of interlinking examples from the presenter with some theoretical input. The workshop is only available for a maximum of 20 people who first register on the platform. Registration deadline is May 15th, go to registration link HERE (there is no confirmation of registration by e-mail). The workshop participation is free of charge.

The workshop asks participants to bring their examples and uses some of them to go through the nine chapters of the book, which is full of examples. All of the authors offer us a new perspective on something we often search for and use for research or job-related activities.

Eligibility criteria

  • Candidates must hold a Master’s degree or higher
  • Candidates must have a basic knowledge of qualitative methods

Preliminary assignment for registered workshop participants

  1. Preliminary readings required: text from Bowen and Prior’s first chapter from the book “Using documents in social research”.
  2. Reflect on how you understood “documents“ before the readings and what documents you have around you. What is around you that could document something interesting about your life for others?
  3. Define what document you want to look for and find one that you want to show to the other participants during the workshop. Keep in mind the definition of documents mentioned in the description above. If you can not show it directly, make a photo of it and ensure that you can share the photo with us during the workshop.

Registration HERE
Deadline for Workshop Registration: May 15th, 2021

Deadline for the Assignment Submission: June 17th, 2021

Workshop Date: June 28th 2021, 13:00-16:00 CET