Content Analysis - James Madison University

Content Analysis
Introduction to Communication Research
Dr. Michael Smilowitz
James Madison University
What is it?
• Content analysis refers to a set of procedures
for describing a large amount of
communication content by reducing the
content into a set of characteristics.
Content analysis is a valuable tool in communication
1. Unobtrusive.
2. Can use predetermined categories or allow
categories to emerge during the analysis.
3. Can allow the investigation of a large amount
of content.
What’s been done with content
• Newspapers
– Topics of news stories
– Emotional tone of reporting
– Political orientation of reporters
• Health communication
– Frosch (2005) analyzes the appeals in tv direct to
consumer ads for prescription drugs. “Most ads
(82%) made some factual claims and made rational
arguments (86%) for product use, but few described
condition causes (26%), risk factors (26%), or
prevalence (25%). Emotional appeals were almost
universal (95%).”
What’s been done with content
• Televised political debates involving linguistic
analysis, thematic analysis, rhetorical and
argumentative analysis.
• Framing of issues such as immigration.
• Changes in advertising strategies during
economic crises.
• Content of literature on the continuity plans
of organizations.
Three qualitative approaches
• From: Hsieh and Shannon (2012) Three Approaches to Qualitative
Content Analysis
• All three approaches are used to interpret meaning from the content of
text data and, hence, adhere to the naturalistic paradigm.
• Conventional content analysis: Coding categories are derived directly
from the text data.
• Directed approach: Analysis starts with a theory or relevant research
findings as guidance for initial codes.
• Summative content analysis: Involves counting and comparisons, usually
of keywords or content, followed by the interpretation of the underlying
a priori vs. emergent coding
a priori coding utilizes categories that have been established previously. Often a coding
manual is available with rules for applying the categories.
Emergent coding uses categories that are created through examinations of the data. The
steps to follow are outlined in Haney, Russell, Gulek, & Fierros (as cited by Stemler, 2001).
1. One or more people independently review the material and come up with a set of
features that form a checklist. If only one person creates the categories and does all
the coding, then a “reliability check” is done. A small portion of the material, usually
less than 10%, is coded by two or more other individuals and checked for consistency.
2. If multiple coders, the coders first code a small portion to compare notes and reconcile any
differences that show up on their initial checklists for the categories to be used in the coding.
3. After some percentage of the material is coded by two or more researchers, often
20%, the researchers compare their coding to check reliability . 95% agreement is
suggested. If the level of reliability is not acceptable, then the researchers repeat the
previous steps. Once the reliability has been established, the coding is applied on a
large-scale basis.
The steps
1. Text selection (census or sampling).
2. Determine the unit of analysis to be coded,
such as speech acts, words, sentences,
paragraphs, pages, themes, topics, etc.
3. Select an a priori coding scheme or develop
content categories.
4. Code the data and test coder reliability.
5. Analyze the data.
Computerized content analysis
• SWIFT Content Analysis Software
SWIFT stands for Structured Word Identification and
Frequency Table, an interactive, keyword-based
program for analyzing multiple, short texts. This free
program seems best suited to coding open ended text
• The Ethnograph v4.0
Software for qualitative research and data analysis,
facilitates the management and analysis of text based
data such as transcripts of interviews, focus groups,
field notes, diaries, meeting minutes, and other
documents. According to the Ethnograph homepage it
is the most widely used software for qualitative data
analysis since 1985.
Wrap it UP!
The best of all possibilities?
being studied