Analytical Research: Historical, Legal, & Policies Studies

Page numbers reference Chapter 13 (pp. 463-499) in
McMillian, J. and Schumacher, S. (1997). Research in education: A conceptual introduction (4th edition). New York: HarpersCollins College Publishers.

"Analytical research, as a style of qualitative inquiry, draws from the disciplines of philosophy (the meaning of concepts), history, and biography" (p. 464).

Difference from ethnography: It is non-interactive document research. "Analytical research describes and interprets the past or recent past from selected sources" (p. 464). The sources may be documents preserved in collections, and/or participants' oral testimonies (oral histories).

Shares commonalties of qualitative research:

· context-bound generalizations

· a discovery orientation

· emergent case study design

· holistic emphasis (qualities of parts unifies the whole phenomenon)

· noninterference in the natural setting

· inductive data analysis

Rigorous techniques of criticism are applied to the documents & testimonies:

· search for primary sources and apply internal & external criticism of sources

· clarify meaning of major ideas and concepts

· focus research questions on events (who, what, when, where), how an event occurred (descriptive), and why the event happened (interpretive)

· interpret facts to suggest causal explanations

Five Methodological Characteristics of Historical /Analytical Research

1. Research Topic Related to Past Events:

· individuals (such as: influences on individual, power relationships)

· movements (such as: styles, time periods, genres, groups)

· concepts (such as: system of signs or symbols, iconography)

· legal issues (such as: copyright protection, censorship, import/export taxes on art / how art is defined for taxes or for percent-for-art in public places law, accessibility to museums - ADA, legal concerns of electronic art and virtual museums on the Internet--is the art the hardcopy made by any printer, the artist's idea, or electronic signals?)

· policy issues (such as: cultural policy, distribution of power in the art system, processes of decision-making, formal or informal social networks that impact policy or perception of art, allocation of government resources to art and artists, selection of art curriculum materials, accreditation of art schools, training or certification of art educators, art therapists, or artists as it relates to entry into the professional field, implementation of assessment policies in arts funding or art education)

2. Primary Sources as Data:

· written documents: archives, manuscript collection repositories, libraries

(published or unpublished, letters, diaries, wills, receipts, maps, autobiographies, journals, newspapers, court records, official minutes, manifestos, regulations, laws, membership lists, enrollment records, budgets, inventories, catalogues, demographical data). There are guides to national archives and private manuscript collections. For example, A Guide to Manuscripts and Archives in the United States describes the holdings of 1300 repositories.

· oral testimonies / oral histories: taped and verbatim transcripts of persons who have witnessed past events. Collected from extended interviews by the researcher or recorded by others. Use an interview guide rather than a standardized interview schedule (see p.447).

· relics, artifacts, art objects: evidence from the visual or physical properties of any object that provides information from the past. (artworks, art tools, equipment, furniture or facilities, textbooks, photographs, maps, the physical look or condition of items the artist owned)

3. Techniques of Criticism Used in Searching for "Facts" (locating sources):

· Search for surviving records of the past event

· Use primary source - documents or testimonies of eyewitnesses to an event. These may be or have been recorded with audio or videotape or camera or some other device. They may be relics collected from the time, place, or person. Primary sources, that have been proven to be authentic, are the basis for documentation in historical research.

· Secondary sources are not as valued as primary but in most cases necessary. Secondary sources are documents or testimonies of individuals who did not actually observe or participate in the event. It is second-hand information or research that may be very useful to compare with primary sources. Depending on the research problem "some sources may be primary in one study and secondary in another" (p. 475). Primary sources may be identified in the bibliographies and footnotes of secondary sources.

· Both types of sources are subjected to techniques of criticism to assess the authenticity and trustworthiness of the source. Conduct thorough analysis of whether the source is genuine or forged, altered in any way, and whether the eyewitness was reliable in recording or describing fact. Sort the interpretations from the facts that underlie them.

4. Interpretive Explanations:

· Are interpreted from the facts to form generalizations. A series of generalizations from facts suggests a causal explanation for the specific event.

· Become very knowledgeable about the era of the event and use this knowledge to critically judge the facts and interpret a generalization from the facts.

· Interpretive explanations are not absolute, but are the best interpretations from a corroboration of separate facts that suggest multiple causes for a single event.

· Researchers precisely specify who, what, when, where, and how in their interpretations. A study contains "that group of associated facts and ideas which, when clearly presented in a prescribed amount of space, leave no questions unanswered within the presentation, even though many questions could be asked outside it" (Barzun and Graff, 1985, p. 19, cited in M & S, p. 469).

· The researcher clearly reports the theoretical foundation from which the interpretation was made. Another valid interpretation of the same facts could be made from a different level of abstraction, for different purposes, and from a different philosophical stance.

5. Types & Techniques of Analyses: Select the type of analysis based on the research purpose. Principles of purposeful sampling are necessary for choosing examples in historical research.

· Conceptual analysis - this type of analysis is used when the entire focus of the study is to either: (a) describe the essential or generic meaning of a concept, (b) to specify different meanings of a concept, or (c) to describe the appropriate usage of a concept in specific instances. The focus is on the way people think about the concept within a context or specific era. The researcher assumes a neutral position while analyzing a concept.

1. Generic analysis - isolates the elements that distinguish the concept from other words.

2. Differential analysis - classify the typical uses of the concept with concrete examples to develop a topology

3. Conditions analysis - provide examples that meets the necessary conditions of the concept used in a specific way and then demonstrate that when the context is changed the meaning changes. This identifies the necessary conditions for a specific application of a concept. This leads to conceptual clarity.

· Edition-Compilation - restores an original document; compiles documents in a chronological order on a topic, period, or person

· Descriptive narration - tells the story in a chronological order

· Interpretive analysis - relates more than one event within the broader context of the period

· Comparative analysis - qualitatively compares similarities and differences of the event to other events or previous eras searching for trends or uniqueness.

· Universal, theoretical or philosophical analysis - develops a theory (universal generalizations) or philosophy (universal meanings of concepts) of history.

Methodological Spiral Steps Used in Historical-Analytical Research

The analyst proceeds in a circular fashion because of the interrelationship of the research problem, sources, criticism, analysis, and explanations" (p. 473).

1. Literature Search: Identify topic, obtain background information, focus topic further, identify possible primary sources relevant to the narrowed topic.

2. Problem Statement: Develop a statement of the problem which delimits and focuses the research study. To do so requires reading secondary sources for background knowledge. "Limiting and phrasing a topic is a continuing effort . . . expressed most succinctly and clearly at the end of the research" (p. 474). Problem statements for historical inquiry delimits: (a) focus (such as group, individual, event, or concept); (b) the time period; (c) geographic location; and (d) the viewpoint (i.e., the theoretical orientation) of the analysis.

3. Limitation Section: The researcher acknowledges limitations in the interpretation of the study. These include: (a) limits of availability and accessibility of primary sources; (b) the focus of the study may exclude some sources; (c) lack of specialized training such as not being able to read the language of some of the primary sources; and (d) the time limits of the study. All studies have limitations which should be clearly stated so that the interpretation is valid within these boundaries. It is a serious flaw in the research if primary sources exist and are available, but were ignored by not being acknowledged and disregarded for good reason in the limitation section.

4. Purposeful sampling of selected sources involves criticism of the sources in the methodological section of the study, in footnotes, or in a methodological appendix. "External criticism determines the authenticity of the source. Internal criticism determines the credibility of the facts stated by the source" (p. 478). State the selection criteria in the study. Throughout analysis remain skeptical and critical of sources.

· External Criticism: Ask who wrote it, when, where, and for what audience, or purpose. Knowledge of the way people wrote or conveyed information, lived, behaved, and believed are essential in analyzing the facts, or recognizing what is genuine information within primary sources. Look for clues to date and place the writing. Collecting and comparing variant sources helps to authenticate the time and place of sources.

· Internal Criticism: Ask how close the witness was to the event (physically, chronologically, socially, and/or psychologically) and attentive to details and/or the overall impact of the event. What were the conditions of the primary source's life. Consider the person or recorder's biases, expertness, purpose in recording, state of mental and physical health, educational level, memory, narrative skill, affinity for the event, laws of libel of the time, and other conventions of the time of writing. Look for forgery of some parts within documents. "Agreement with other known facts or circumstantial evidence increases the credibility of a statement" (p. 479). Facts are weighed and judged by consistency and the accumulation or evidence.

5. Rephrase the Problem: Identify facts, state generalizations from facts, and then infer causal explanations. Search for evidence and test the evidence with insightful questions. "The more questions asked of the sources about the topic, the more comprehensive and complex the analysis is" (p. 481). Modification and qualification from this process of external and internal criticism of sources lead to rephrasing the problem statement to reflect new understandings. Continue to return to the primary sources. Using a cyclical process the researcher accumulates information that enables the researcher to see things in the primary source that were missed for their significance in the earlier readings of it. In qualitative research the introductory overview is rewritten at the end of the research process. The problem statement clearly identifies the information that will be included in the study and information that will excluded from the study.

6. Conclusions: are an interpretative summary of generalizations placed at the end of the study and in the abstract. The conclusions must relate to problem statement or purpose of the study. Conclusions are justified if all the elements of the research are made explicit in the report.