Document analysis

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The document analysis is already a data collection technology to collect data as to documents exist. In document analysis, the sources of information are exclusively documents, in contrast to e.g. B. interviewing an eyewitness who would be the source of information to be a human.

In the broadest sense, documents can also represent film recordings or photos.

Document analysis falls within the scope of survey techniques. As with all survey techniques, the choice of a suitable technique depends on the respective situation and various other circumstances. When analyzing documents, written information sources are used to obtain information. This can be any type of document.

Document analysis is often the beginning of an investigation in order to familiarize oneself with a topic. An example would be a diploma thesis where the first path leads to the library.

Advantages and disadvantages


  • low effort in data collection
  • no need for further documentation such as B. during an interview
  • The reason for the investigation does not falsify the data
  • Operations remain undisturbed


  • Possibly low topicality
  • Data leave room for interpretation
  • Documentation may not be complete or appropriate for the investigation


  • for familiarization with an area
  • to control other information
  • to supplement other information

In the document analysis, the nature of documents should be examined. If you see a document as part of a processing process, the status of a document changes depending on the processing status. This form of analysis can be understood as a document-oriented process analysis. Before the introduction of a document management system, the document inventory should be subjected to a precise analysis.

Documents have static properties that usually do not change. This includes format (A4, .doc, .tiff), presentation form (electronic, paper form), creator and so on. It can also be important to capture quantities or document flows.

Only after the analysis can it be determined whether a document management system (DMS) can be used effectively and efficiently at all.


  • Lindsay Prior: Using Documents in Social Research. Sage Publications, London et al. 2003, ISBN 0-7619-5746-4 .

Individual evidence

  1. Prof. Dr. Karl Lenz: III. Complex: Qualitative Research Methods - PDF