Historical Research Design

Historical Research Design: This method involves the systematic and objective location, evaluation, and synthesis of evidence to establish facts and draw conclusions about past events. Historical research aims to show the importance of past events in the present situation. This research can provide a perspective for decision-making about current problems and some issues are often better understood if we understand the historical perspective. The research solely depends upon secondary data such as books, journals, magazines, newspapers, historical records, diaries, documents, etc. There are very limited sources of historical information and many assumptions are found in this research.

Characteristics of Historical Research Design

  • Historical research involves the careful study and analysis of data about past events.
  • The purpose is to gain a clearer understanding of the impact of the past on the present and future events related to the life process.
  • It is a critical investigation of events, their development, experiences the past.
  • Involves the review of written materials but may include oral documentation as well.
  • It covers categories such as historical legal, documentary, bibliographical, biographical institutional and organizational.
  • Typically relies on available data which are in form of diaries, letters, newspapers, reports, and so on.

Important existing sources for nurse researchers are hospital records, order sheets, nursing charts, physicians, and care plan statements.

Different steps in historical research design are described as follows:

1. Data collection

Historical sources of data are classified into two main categories such as primary sources and secondary sources Primary sources are first-hand information that includes relics associated with persons, groups, periods, or events. Fossils, skeletons, tools, weapons, utensils, clothing, furniture, pictures, painting, coins, and art objects are examples of remains that were not deliberately intended for use in transmitting information or to be used as a record. Documents called primary sources are constitutions, characters, laws, official records, deeds, licenses, newspapers, magazines, etc. Secondary sources are the reports of people who related the testimony of an actual witness of an event or actual participants in the same. For example most of the history books and encyclopedias.

2. Criticism of the data

The second step necessitates a comprehensive review of gathered materials. External criticism is the establishment of validity by determining the authenticity of the source. It primarily deals with data relating to form and appearance rather than the meaning of contents, while internal criticism weighs the testimony of the document about truth. Internal criticism is the determination of reliability by correctly interpreting the contents of the documents. The use of original, authentic sources; awareness of one’s biases; the substantiation of the document in question by another collaborating source are a few of the safeguards used to ensure that interpretations are correct. After the authenticity of a historical document or relic has been established, the next question is to establish the validity of its contents or to determine the accuracy and value of the statement made.

3. Presentation of the facts

The historical researcher must bring the material together to analyze and test the research hypotheses after evaluating the authenticity and accuracy of data. Historical researchers must be careful at this point since the analysis of historical data involves logical processes rather than statistical ones. The organization of historical material can also be done in a topical, thematic, or functional arrangement.

The historical research is not involved in the situation that is studied and the researchers do not interact with the subjects of study. Analysis of historical data may help explain current and future events. There are many limitations of historical research as historical data is incomplete and vulnerable to time and it can also be biased and corrupt. Historical research is a complex process because the topics of research are affected by numerous factors that need to be considered.

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