Conducting documentary research

Documentary research provides a better understanding of the distinctive characteristics of community involved in the project. It can also be an opportunity to discover research that has already been done, to build on it and avoid duplicating work. Questions are likely to emerge from discoveries, providing an opportunity to personally learn more from community members about certain topics.


How to create a research plan?

A research plan is developed at the beginning of the research phase and evolves throughout the research project. Its function is to consolidate the documentation needs and the potential sources to be explored to complete the documentation. A chart template that can be used to create a research plan is available in the downloadable tools. It can be modified as needed. Here are the key steps for preparing this plan:


Where can documentation be found?

Nearly all communities have archives about themselves, often stored in a specific location. Sometimes they are located in the community's educational or governmental institutions. These are good places to look for records relevant to community members. There may also be private archives preserved by individuals. Reaching out to them through community radio or council publications are effective approaches that will promote the project and give it greater exposure.


How to understand the content?

For all documents, it is important to understand who the author is and to take into account the context related to its draft. Archival documents were mostly written by Allochthonous people for Indigenous people. The portrayals within these documents therefore represent the personal perceptions of those who wrote them, that is, the perceptions stemming from encounters, practices and events they witnessed. In other words, it is an external view of the community, and therefore this documentary research cannot replace the knowledge of the people encountered during the project. The latter provide perspectives that are much more representative than those found among their community.