Steps in Content Analysis Research

Berelson (1952) – “content analysis is a research technique for the objective, systematic and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication.” (p. 18).

Stand-Alone or Triangulation

It can be used only as a research method or use with others in the case of triangulation i.e survey and content analysis can be used together. Content analysis and in-depth interview.

Key items in content analysis

  1. Unit of analysis 
  2. Content categories
  3. Coding sheet or coding book

Unit of analysis

  • The smallest element or component of our study- e.g. a news story, a feature story, an ad, a cartoon or a letter to the editor. It can be all of them.
  • In survey research, we focus on individual respondents (s/no), but in content analysis, we focus on the individual manifest content (countable and s/no)

Content categories

Each unit of analysis can be described in various interesting ways – beginning with s/no thru source, author, topic, page/position, direction, etc

  • Your research question will throw some important content categories at you
  • Similar existing research (lit review)

Coding Book

To be consistent in coding our units of analysis (news stories), we must have the same understanding of the terms – e.g. what is a political story? What is a positive or negative story?

  • Existing code books, lit review, reference to experts (specialized bodies)
  • Sample code books/coding guide

Steps in carrying out content analysis

  • 1. Topic or area of interest and read up on it.
  • 2.  What is the situation? The problem.
  • 3. The goal/purpose of this research.
  • 4. The specific objectives and RQs.
  • 5. The units of analysis.
  • 6. The content categories.
  • 7. Sampling method and sample size.
  • 8. Coding guide/code book and training
  • 9. Pilot testing and inter-coder reliability

Criticisms and Shortcomings

1. Tedious and complicated

2. Time consuming

3. You get the results you want

4. Not too scientific

5. Too applied and no theory

6. The above criticisms can also be strong points in favor of content analysis

7. Like other research methods, content analysis is good and bad.

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