Content Analysis

Content analysis is a research option in the social sciences used to reduce large amounts of unstructured textual content into manageable data relevant to the (evaluation) research questions.

Texts refer to any occurrence of communications - including websites, social media, books, essays, interviews, focus groups, diaries, discussions, articles, speeches, conversations, advertising, theater, informal conversation, and so on. To conduct a content analysis on any such text, the text is broken down into manageable categories on a variety of levels (ie, key words, word sense, phrase, sentence, or theme) and coded. The coded content can then be quantitatively analyzed for trends, patterns, relationships, similarities, differences etc., from which researchers can get insights and make inferences about the messages within the texts, the writer(s) and the context.

Content analysis uses thematic coding in order to perform a quantitative analysis of particular occurrences of themes in an unstructured text. The coding schedule consists of a table in which each row is a unit for which data is being collected. Each column is a dimension or theme to be analyzed, according to the evaluation questions. Elements of the content are described and organized using these categories. This process is called coding and, particularly if appropriate software is used to aid the process, it enables more efficient sorting and retrieval of data. Interpretation of the data may be based on:

  • frequency of occurrences (e.g. in different samples, or at different times)
  • patterns of co-occurrence (e.g. ‘Boolean operators’, cluster analysis)
  • sequence of occurrences.

Resources

Guide

Example

Sources

Busch C, De Maret P S, Flynn T, Kellum R, Le, Brad Meyers S, Saunders M, White R, and Palmquist M. (2005). Content AnalysisWriting@CSU. Colorado State University Department of English. Retrieved  from http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/research/content/  

Power Point Presentation (2007)  Introduction to qualitative analysis, Lecture from Psychology course. Retrieved from www.psychology.soton.ac.uk/researchmethods/lectures/media/2007-10-29/qual_lecture3.ppt

List D (2012) Know Your Audience Chapter 16, ?Audience Dialogue Website. Retrieved from http://www.audiencedialogue.net/kya16a.html  

Updated: 14th January 2014 - 1:51am
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A special thanks to this page's contributors
Author
Research Assistant, RMIT University.
Melbourne.

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