By definition, ,content analysis is a type of research that helps identify and look for patterns in communication. The analysis is done using a systematic collection of data from texts, whether written or oral. Sources for texts include:
Analysis of content can be both qualitative and quantitative. The former focuses on understanding the interpretation of the text, while the other focuses on measuring and counting, respectively. In both qualitative and quantitative content analysis, the author will need to categorise words, concepts and themes of the text for a proper analysis.
The purpose and the effect of certain communication can be properly understood by researchers with the help of content analysis. It can also help draw inferences about the audience or the creator of the content.
Content analysis is also used in quantitative analysis of historical or contemporary text to figure out how certain subjects, concepts, words or phrases appear in the text.
To examine the relevancy and mention of healthcare in political campaigns, the campaign speeches and manifestos are analysed to look out for terms like health, healthcare, hospitals, medical colleges, etc. It is done to draw statistical figures that can be compared to find the differences over time across different political parties and candidates.
Also, content analysis can be done on a qualitative scale to understand the semantic relationship and meaning of words and concepts in the text.
For a better qualitative understanding of healthcare issues in the context of politics, researchers can locate words like healthcare, health insurance etc., from several political speeches and try to figure out in which context they are used to, like equal access, lowered costs, state-sponsored etc. In addition, it will help in drawing the statistical data required to draw differences of use over time and across different political candidates and parties.
Content analysis plays a major role in several fields like marketing, media studies, social science etc. since researchers can apply it across a wide range of texts. Some of the goals of content analysis include:
When starting with the analysis, you will need a distinct research question.
Example of a research question for analysis
Is there a difference in US media’s portrayal of male and female politicians in terms of trust?
Now follow these steps:
1. Selecting the content
The research question will determine the text you choose. You will have to decide on the following:
In the case of dealing with small texts, researchers will need to analyse all of them. However, if large volumes of texts are to be analysed, the researcher can select a sample.
To find the difference in the portrayal of trust by the US media based on the gender of the politician, data collected from newspapers and digital print media sources would be huge. Therefore, researchers can choose any three major publications and collect data.
Defining the units and categories of the analysis
The next step is to determine the level of analysis for the specific texts, and this includes defining the following:
In our example, the politicians would be the units while the gender and their trustworthiness would be the category. For a deeper analysis, researchers can also categorise the units based on age, political parties etc.
2. Create a set of rules
Coding will involve the organisation of units according to the previously mentioned categories. The definition of the rules is especially more important in dealing with more conceptual categories to ensure proper coding of the text.
When multiple researchers are involved, applying the coding rules is also very important as this makes recording the rules much more transparent and reliable.
When looking at the category of female politicians, researchers will need to decide the titles they would like to code into the category like the governor, senator etc. With the category of “trustworthiness”, choose certain relatable phrases or words like reliable, honest in the category.
3. Follow the rules to help code the text
Gather all the appropriate data in the relevant categories by going through each text. Several computer programs can help you, or it can be done manually.
Adhering to the rules, analyse the newspaper articles and record the characteristics of the mentioned politicians along with words like trust and reliability that can describe trustworthiness.
4. Analyse results and come up with conclusions
It is the final step of content analysis. After the coding is complete, draw patterns and come up with conclusions as per the research question. This statistical analysis can be used to find trends, discuss correlations and make inferences about the text and its creator and audience.
The analysis reflects that male politicians are more associated with words like trust than women by the US media. It concludes that the media highlights the male candidates in a more trustworthy manner than their female counterparts, making a deep impact on the readers’ perceptions towards female politicians.
Since content analysis can be done on several different texts, it is utilised in marketing, social sciences, anthropology, psychology, cognitive science and many other disciplines.
Credible sources of information for content analysis include books, magazines, speech transcripts, newspapers etc.
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