As its name indicates, when we speak of documentary analysis we are referring to the study of a document, regardless of its support (audiovisual, electronic, paper, etc.).

When we study a document, we do it from two points of view:

On the one hand, we look at its external part, that is, at the documentary support. We call this Formal or External Analysis. It helps us to identify a document within a collection. On the other hand, we analyze the content of the document, that is, we study its message, the subject it deals with. This part is known as Content Analysis or Internal. Document Analysis allows us to perform retrospective searches and retrieve the document we need when we need it. Therefore, we can say that Documentary Analysis is linked to Information Retrieval.

Infographic. What is the Document Analysis?

The External or Formal Analysis

As we have already commented, the external analysis studies the documentary support, that is, the form of the document. It includes the following processes:

  • Bibliographic Description: it is the starting point of the cataloging. It is responsible for describing the document, allowing the identification of said document within the collection. It includes data such as the title of the work, author, edition data, the series, the number of pages and dimensions, the normalized number and the acquisition conditions.
  • Cataloging : it is in charge of choosing the terms by which the document will be searched (access points), which will allow us to locate the document within a collection. The access points can be of: author, title, subject, series, CDU, etc. Each term is used as an entry to the catalog.

As a result of the Bibliographic Description and Cataloging, a Bibliographic Record is obtained for each document. This record contains the data of the bibliographic description, the access points obtained in the cataloging and a topographic signature that indicates the physical place where the document is located within the archive or library. The ways of presenting this data vary, but currently the ISBD format (card format), the MARC format and the label format coexist. You can check this in the online catalog (OPAC) of your municipal or university library.


The Internal or Content Analysis

As we have already said, it is carried out on the message contained in the document, and tries to determine the subject or subjects it deals with. This will allow us to retrieve the document according to its content, in addition to being able to create alerts about what is published on a specific topic. It includes the following processes:

  • Indexing: it is about extracting those terms that best define the content of the document, so that we can know the subject it is about. The resulting product is the index. To expand the topic of indexing you can read Document indexing.
  • Summary: allows us to have in-depth knowledge of the matter the document is about. If you want to go deeper into this topic you can read The use of summaries in information services.

In summary, Documentary Analysis allows us to:

Identify and locate any document, as well as know its content. Retrieve the document and the information it contains. For which, the Documentary Analysis must be objective and standardized. Prepare merely informative documents ( secondary documents, such as abstracts) from the originals (primary documents).