Documentary Research Examples

The documentary research attempts to obtain, analyze, interpret and compare information about an object of study from a host of documentary sources (audiovisual records, books or archival documents). For instance: Nanuk the Eskimo (1922), Those Who Whisper, by Orlando FIges and Made in LA (2007).

This type of research must respect the following methodological stages:

  • Font inventory. All types of material that may be useful for the investigation are selected. The trigger when compiling this material is the central theme of the investigation.
  • Revision. Once the material is compiled, the researcher must separate what is useless or unnecessary for his research.
  • Comparison. The compiled material is collated and organized and the citations and references that the researcher will use to support their theories and interpretations are extracted.
  • Interpretation. The researcher carries out a critical and analytical reading of the compared material to advance in the elaboration of opinions and deductions.
  • Conclusions. As a conclusion to the investigation, the elements demonstrated throughout the investigation are compiled and their meanings and possible causes or consequences are mentioned.

Information sources

The sources of information to which an investigator appeals are divided into two levels:

  • Primary. They provide original and new data within a certain area of ​​knowledge. It is always first-hand information.
  • high schools. They provide information acquired from another source, which has been criticized, reorganized, restructured or analyzed.

Document types

  • Printed. Journalistic publications, archival documents (letters, treaties, reports, minutes, contracts), theses, books.
  • Audiovisual. Recordings of audios, films, documentaries, video records.
  • Graphics. Photographs, infographics, maps, paintings, drawings, diagrams.
  • Electronic. Digitized documents, information published on portals, websites, blogs, social networks.

Examples of documentary research

  1. The Vietnam War. The audiovisual documentary that narrates the Vietnam War (1955-1975) for 990 minutes was directed by documentary maker Ken Burns. Throughout 10 episodes, military operations are addressed and, in parallel, the increase in questions and opposition to the war in the United States.
  2. The secret decrees of the dictatorship. The Data Unit of the news portal Infobae downloaded and reviewed more than 7000 secret decrees that were issued by the Military Juntas during the last de facto government in Argentina (1976-1983). In these decrees, which are signed by different dictators, provisions and orders of the Military Junta were found, ranging from liberations, deportations and arrests to the prohibition of books and the sale of weapons. All the material was presented along eight notes that were published between March and May 2019.
  3. The Russian Revolution (1891 – 1924), Orlando Figes. Using newspaper documents, letters and personal diaries, the British historian narrates the most important milestones of the revolution and provides a detailed portrait of everyday life at that time. Throughout the book, Figes shows that the Russian Revolution was a historical process that radically altered the trajectory of a people and that it had influence throughout the world.
  4. Bios. Lives that marked yours: Luis Alberto Spinetta. In this two-hour audiovisual documentary, produced by National Greographic, he offers intimate and revealing details of Luis Alberto Spineta, an artist considered one of the fathers of Argentine rock. His family participated in its production (both in front of and behind the camera) and it has more than 100 hours of unpublished material, little-known recordings and testimonies of all kinds. The documentary is directed by the artist’s eldest daughter, Catarina Spinetta, who reviews her father’s childhood until the last days.
  5. World War II in Photographs, David Boyle. This book compiles 900 high-quality photographs from various sources to portray World War II (1939–1945). The images show all the scenarios in which the warfare unfolded: the steppes of Russia, the deserts of Africa, the jungles of the South Pacific and the seas of the Arctic. The images were arranged chronologically and each one of them has a detailed explanation of the course of events.
  6. The silence of the others. This documentary produced by the Spanish Pedro Almodóvar lays bare the crimes perpetrated during the Franco regime. Directed by Almudena Carracedo and Robert Bahar, the film also highlights the contribution of the Argentine lawsuit during the search for justice. The making of this documentary took seven years to produce. Its filmmakers collected more than 450 hours of material to shed light on the struggle of the victims of the Franco regime who continue to seek justice.
  7. The Berlin Wall. The border through a city, Thomas Flemming. Through documents, photos and illustrations, this book portrays the history of the Berlin Wall. It runs from the first wire fence that was placed in August 1961 to the “fourth generation wall”, 3.60 meters high, without overlooking the project to raise the “high technology” wall. In addition, the work illustrates the daily life of the people who lived to the west and east of the city and the events that led to the fall of the border in 1989.