Documentary Sources: Tips and Links Related to Sport

The 2020/21 academic year is going to be different. Higher education has a number of COVID-19 related issues to engage with. A shout out to all the people involved in making the academic year start and function…

This blog post shares some points for students or staff about ‘how to’ better utilise documentary sources, as the current COVID-19 restrictions will mean more desk based and remote research projects. The focus of my post is specifically on documentary sources related to sport. I’ve grouped together some points and resources that offer an insight into how to successfully approach documentary sources and analysis.

Overview of documentary sources

Rather than regurgitate my PhD methodology chapter, here are some slides with key points on and suggestions to further resources:

Bryman, A (2016) Social Research Methods. Oxford, Oxford University Press. Freely accessible online resources – including a student researcher’s toolkit, powerpoint slides for staff, and seminar outlines for Chapter 23: Documents as sources of data.

Macdonald, K (2008) ‘Using Documentary Analysis’ in Researching Social Life, edited by N. Gilbert. London, Sage.

Scott, J (1990) A matter of record: documentary sources in social research, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Examples of sport documentary sources

Type of documentary sourceSourceDetailAvailabilityLinks (click for external pages)
Personal documentsBritish Library – Oral histories of sport collectionOver 300 oral history interviews documenting the lives and careers of British sports people, the collection includes athletes, coaches, teachers, and those who witnessed historic sporting events.Online and free to accessCollection information

Collection items
Visual objectsInternational Olympic Committee – Olympic art posters

Olympic World Library
The posters produced for the Olympic Games are one of the facets of their visual identity. Making use of all styles and techniques, they never cease to surprise and evolve. Through this document you can obtain an overview of the various posters produced by the Organising Committees for each edition of the Games.Online and free to access Collection – Blog post

Summer Games document

Winter Games document
Official documents deriving from the stateUK Parliament

House of Commons Select Committee, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

House of Commons Library
Inquiries – including reports and government responses; oral evidence transcripts; written evidence.

Research and resources – including specifically related to the DCMS
Online and free to accessE.g. Inquiry Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors

E.g. Research Briefing – Physical education, physical activity and sport in schools
Official documents deriving from private sourcesSports Think TankA research library of key reports on the sports and physical activity sector from a variety of sources.Online and free to accessRepository overview
Mass media outputsBritish Newspaper ArchiveLaunched in 2011, we have now scanned millions of pages of historical newspapers and made them available online for the first time ever. You can now search hundreds of millions of stories by keyword, name, location, date or title and watch your results appear in an instant.Available online and accessible via University Library database subscriptionsArchive overview
Virtual outputsThe National Archives – UK Government Web ArchiveThe National Archives carries out web archiving to preserve the websites and some social media accounts of central government, including websites, social media, Twitter, video, Flickr archives.Online and free to accessE.g. Sport England webpages since 2004
(All information and links correct up to September 2020)

N.B University libraries will have a search engine of the databases and/or collections they own or subscribe to. It will have all the access details, e.g. image here and the De Montfort University A-Z Databases, they have full access to the British Library Newspapers archive and the link to the Gale page.

I hope this blog post is of use to students and staff. I am happy to offer further advice, further links to documentary sources, or give a guest lecture on this aspect of research. Get in contact!

Good luck for the upcoming academic year in the UK everyone. And happy documentary sourcin’


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