Content Analysis

AAmong the techniques of Textual Analysis, Content Analysis has found its way. Although its origins could be found in some psychology research work experiences achieved between 1920 and 1930, the development of content analysis as a full-fledged scientific method took place after World War II, when the first definition, which still remains a classic in this field, was elaborated. According to Berelson (1952) content analysis is a research technique for the objective, systematic, and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication.


The terms of this definition have led to different interpretations and combinations depending of the state of the methodological debate, in Social Studies in general and in Content Analysis in particular.


At the beginning, objectivity was related to the idea of remaining neutral when analyzing; later on, we arrived to the idea that being objective is a consequence of being more systematic in the use of this technique on different units of analysis.


Its quantitative nature refers to the possibility of calculating and coding the content. The question of whether the coding, that was initially done by hand, could be applied to other disciplines became a matter for debate. Since 1960 the coding was computerized and nowadays it is related to key software which is responsible for indexing data in web search engines.


Another leading debate is the qualitative aspect of this technique. From a quantitative point of view, the main aspect is frequency of occurrence of some contents while from a qualitative point of view; Content Analysis is not only descriptive, once the belief in the supposed neutrality /objectivity of the analyst has been overcome, inference becomes a major aspect in the development and application of the present technique.


However, having manifest contents is a central point to avoid compromising the inter-subjective verification of the results of Content Analysis, going beyond the latent contents of the studied units. This requires the use of other Textual Analysis’ techniques such as Discourse Analysis.


The basic steps for the implementation of Content Analysis are:


Define specific objectives (since it is a technique, objectives must be related to each other and meet the aims of the research work);


Formulate a hypothesis;


Define the Content Universe and the sample to be analyzed;


Identify the Registration Units (words, subject, character, temporal-spatial period) and the Content Units (e.g. an Edition or a section from where they were extracted);


Develop a Coding Scheme which allows breaking up the raw data of the text into numeric, alphabetic or alphanumeric representations according to the following counting principles: occurrence, frequency, weighted frequency, intensity, direction and contingency;


Determine Categories and Variables of Analysis considering that they should ensure that the analysis is profitable, that they should meet only one criteria, that they must be exhaustive and mutually exclusive and finally that they should be clear, significant and replicable;


Develop a Coding Book that puts into practice the previous point and sets rules for identification, analysis and classification procedures as well as coding sheets that will help to organize data input;


Select and train those who will be responsible for Coding according to the rules set;


Reduce the data to manageable representations;


Analyze data;


Verify the results;


Write the Report.


Applications: Orientation editorial analysis, political campaign´s strategies, cartoons’ main theme, businessmen, actors and government officials’ introduction in the media, gender role portrayals in advertisements.

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