Documents are secondary data developed by individuals, groups, and organisations, in which sociologist may find particularly advantageous in their research. Personal documents are items such as letters, diaries, autobiographies, notes and photo collections. Personal documents may be noted as unrepresentative, because some groups are unlikely to produce personal documents such as diaries and letters, because they have got limited time or resources. Therefore, their views may not be represented, whilst those with the time and literacy skills may be overrepresented.
When it comes to examining the personal documents, it somehow lacks the authenticity. There may be possibly missing pages, or someone must have reproduced another copy, making it seem fake. For example, there is claim that the Hitler diaries are fakes. Personal documents may also potentially lack the credibility. Documents may be difficult to believe, when considering the author’s genuineness. This conforms to John Scott’s theory of authenticity as there would need to be another secondary source that is similar to be authentic. The availability of personal documents may be difficult for researchers to gain access to. For example, private documents such as diaries are becoming less available sociologists. However, a document written for personal purposes has a high degree of validity. It permits the researcher to get close to their social actor’s life in giving them a genuine insight through the detailed qualitative data. Most personal documents can be cheap, saving the researcher time and money.
Historical documents are items such as reports from government, the media, and old passenger lists and documents etc.