Content Analysis


I.                    Introduction to quantitative content analysis.

A.     Content analysis involves analyzing the content of existing written, audio, or visual communication in an effort draw conclusions about the characteristics, attitudes, and occasionally, behaviors of the individuals or groups that produced it.

B.     Types of communication media.

                                                1.      Newspapers, magazines, and books.

                                                2.      TV programs, radio broadcasts, commercials, and movies.

                                                3.      Official documents and texts such as court records, minutes of meetings, legal codes, and policy statements.

                                                4.      Diaries, letters, and other personal documents.

                                                5.      Photographs and art.

C.     Both quantitative and qualitative researchers use content analysis.

                                                1.      Quantitative researchers count and measure things using preconceived coding categories in order to test hypotheses.

                                                2.      Qualitative researchers try to understand the meanings and perceptions described in the material by developing coding schemes and theoretical interpretations that "make sense" of the data.


II.                 Doing quantitative content analysis.

A.     Identifying, locating, and gathering data sources.

                                                1.      Choosing a media.

a.       Considering your research question and hypotheses.

b.      Considering availability.

                                                2.      Sampling and selection.

a.       Sampling levels.

b.      Multistage sampling.

B.     Measuring and coding data.

                                                1.      Selecting indicators and developing a data collection form for recording observations.

                                                2.      Counting occurrences of indicators.

                                                3.      Coding manifest versus latent content.

                                                4.      Reliability and validity.

                                                5.      Multiple coders and inter-rater reliability.


III.               Advantages and disadvantages of content analysis.

A.     Advantages.

                                                1.      Content analysis is unobtrusive and non-reactive.

                                                2.      It is excellent for addressing broad cultural values and beliefs, especially as they change over time.

                                                3.      It is relatively easy, cost efficient and safe, often being conducted in a library.

                                                4.      Content analysis presents few ethical problems.

B.     Disadvantages.

                                                1.      It can be very time consuming.

                                                2.      The quality of the research is affected by the quality of the data.

                                                3.      The reliability and validity of coding can be difficult to demonstrate.

                                                4.      The unit of observation is limited to previously "published" data, limiting its application to specific types of research questions.