Documents of Life


Documents of life (DoL) is a conceptual and methodological approach or framework for research rather than a set of methods. DoL are everyday material items like text messages, photographs, instructions on consumer goods, and other such things. Most are “found,” rather than produced by researchers and provide directional information in telling people what is what, who is who, where to go, and how to do things. The “made” examples include ethnographies, life histories, and interviews when their contents focus on the everyday and its organisation. DoL as a conceptual and methodological approach originated around post-1945 developments impacting on the social sciences associated with “the isms,” “the turns,” and “the movements.” It developed subsequently as an interdisciplinary approach with a methodological core of emphasising the importance of the everyday, people as subjects of their own lives, the situatedness of the researcher, and ethics in research relationships and writings as well as the focus on DoL themselves. Its methodological aspects are introduced via the work of founding contributor Ken Plummer and explored in depth around the different ways these ideas have been developed. Comparisons of DoL research with the interdisciplinary areas it is interrelated with—life story/history research, narrative inquiry, auto/biography, everyday life and material culture, and documentary/textual analysis—are provided. Then, a number of research examples are examined in detail by focusing on their methodological aspects and their use of particular methods of analysis. The entry concludes by considering new directions for DoL research.

locked icon

Sign in to access this content

Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

  • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
  • Read modern, diverse business cases
  • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles