Chapter 18: Archival data
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This chapter shows that “hard-to-get” archival data offer rich opportunities to answer research questions that analytical sociologists ask. Though data from archives are typically qualitative in the sense of non-numerical information that was recorded and kept for administrative reasons, the chapter illustrates how such data can be collected, prepared, and analyzed for the purposes of quantitative social science research. Drawing both on exemplary studies in analytical sociology and their own experiences, the authors consider where archival data sources offer new solutions for old problems and avenues for addressing sociological questions. Distinguishing between data collected from traditional tangible archives - repositories of manuscripts that need to be accessed in person - and new digital archives that are often associated with the idea of “big data”, the chapter considers methodological challenges one is likely to encounter during the research process, and offers empirical strategies to address these challenges.

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