It is possible to do sociological research without directly involving humans at all. One such method is documentary research. In documentary research, all information is collected from texts and documents. The texts and documents can be either written, pictorial, or visual in form.
The material used can be categorized as primary sources, which are original materials that are not created after the fact with the benefit of hindsight, and secondary sources that cite, comment, or build upon primary sources.
Media Studies and Content Analysis
Typically, sociological research on documents falls under the cross-disciplinary purview of media studies, which encompasses all research dealing with television, books, magazines, pamphlets, or any other human-recorded data. Regardless of the specific media being studied, they are referred to as texts.
Media studies may draw on traditions from both the social sciences and the humanities, but mostly from its core disciplines of mass communication, communication, communication sciences, and communication studies.
Researchers may also develop and employ theories and methods from disciplines including cultural studies, rhetoric, philosophy, literary theory, psychology, political economy, economics, sociology, anthropology, social theory, art history and criticism, film theory, feminist theory, information theory, and political science .
Government Documentary Research
Sociologists may use government documents to research the ways in which policies are made.
Content analysis refers to the study of recorded human communications, such as paintings, written texts, and photos. It falls under the category of unobtrusive research, which can be defined as ways for studying human behavior without affecting it in the process. While sociological research involving documents is one of the less interactive research options available to sociologists, it can reveal a great deal about the norms, values, and beliefs of people belonging to a particular temporal and cultural context.