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

The advantages of the archival method are that it is typically inexpensive or free, it saves time on data collection, and it provides information about the past. The disadvantages are that it may not respond to the researcher’s specific research question, the data may be incomplete, and it may be time-consuming to find and sort through archives that do not use standardized descriptive methods or are in original languages.

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In practice, researchers often do not know in advance how helpful archival research is going to be. This means that one advantage is that you may discover something unexpected which will confirm a hypothesis, change the course of your research, or save months of work, and one disadvantage is that you may discover nothing you could not have found online. The archival method of research is a gamble. This is also true of conducting research online or at your local library, but the stakes are higher, particularly if you have obtained a grant and traveled around the world to conduct research at a particular specialist archive.

One of the great advantages of the archival method is that you can obtain types of material that would not be available any other way. If you are conducting high-level research on a well-known writer, for instance, there will probably be at least one archive which has hand-corrected manuscripts, first drafts, and letters describing literary progress. Sometimes you might be the first person to read these. Occasionally, archives do not even know what they have in their possession, and you might discover hitherto unknown works. Archives offer a way to break new ground as a researcher.

On the other hand, the old tin trunk covered with dust may not contain anything of interest. Conversely, the archive may be meticulously organized, to the point that everything they have has already been picked over in detail by twenty other scholars. Finally, the archival method is much more worthwhile for some types of research than others. In history and biography, it may be vital, whereas in philosophy and the sciences, it will mainly be useful in providing subsidiary information.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on January 4, 2021
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There are many advantages to the archival method. For instance, this method is generally inexpensive because although there might be a fee to access relevant research, there are many free archives as well, and the process is overall typically cheaper than collecting data oneself. Not collecting the data themselves can also save researchers a lot of time. The archival method also provides a trustworthy look at the past. This can be quite useful in comparative research. If a researcher is investigating how a topic has changed over time, they can use archival sources for proof of what it was like in the past.

There are also many disadvantages to the archival method. For instance, it can be quite difficult to locate relevant materials because not all archives adhere to professional descriptive standards. It could also be difficult and time-consuming to understand archival sources that are in their original language. Many archives are also not digitalized and have to be accessed in person to be seen in full. That also makes the process time-consuming and in some cases impossible, such as during the current public health crisis.

There are also downsides to the fact that the researcher using archives does not conduct the research themselves in this method. Because the researcher did not have a say in data collection, the research might not directly or completely what they are researching.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on December 16, 2020
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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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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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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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