What are the advantages and disadvantages of using the archival method?

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psyproffie | College Teacher | (Level 3) Assistant Educator

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Archival research is qualitative method of research in which you take data collected by someone else and analyze it in order to draw your own conclusions regarding your different hypothesis. This is useful for the type of research where you can access large quantities of information that has already been compiled. This is useful because it can help to reduce the amount of time and money spent on research.  

This type of research is helpful in a type of hypothesis in which you could not ethically assign participants to groups; it is also good and researching trends within a population. However a drawback of this type of research is that as a researcher you have no control over how the data was collected and what type of controls for extraneous variables were put in place.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Archival research analyzes fellow researchers' studies or utilizes historical patient records.  The archival method has many advantages and disadvantages. 

With archival research, one advantage is that the experimenter does not have to worry about erroneously introducing changes in participant behavior that would affect the outcome of the study.  Moreover, the archival method is more cost-effective than other methods, because researchers can use internet databases to locate free archives. Another advantage is that archival research can be inclusive of long periods of time, thus allowing for a broader view of trends or outcomes.

Conversely, archival research also has some disadvantages.  The primary disadvantage is that the previous research may be unreliable, or not collected to the researcher’s standard; the researcher has no control over how the data was collected when using archived information.  The data may prove to be incomplete or possibly fail to address certain key issues.

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jameadows | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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One advantage of using the archival research method is that the data have already been collected; therefore, researchers do not need to go through the institutional review process to gain participants' permission to collect data. In addition, the data can be relatively easy and inexpensive to review. Finally, the data in archives can be very useful to answer questions in longitudinal studies, such as looking at health or development over a life span. Without archival data, the time span that researchers can look at might be limited. 

The disadvantages of using archival research is that the data may not directly respond to the research question, so the data may have to be re-coded to answer a new question. Also, the data may not, at times, offer the richness of other forms of data collection, such as interviews. 

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