Content Analysis

Overview

Content analysis, a type of secondary data analysis, is used to analyze text, including, interview transcripts, newspapers, books, manuscripts, and Web sites to determine the frequency of specific words or ideas. The results of content analysis allow researchers to identify, as well as quantify, specific ideas, concepts, and their associated patterns, and trends of ideas that occur within a specific group or over time.

Application

Content analysis, a type of secondary data analysis, is used to analyze text, including, interview transcripts, newspapers, books, manuscripts, and Web sites to determine the frequency of specific words or ideas. The results of content analysis allow researchers to identify, as well as quantify, specific ideas, concepts, and their associated patterns, and trends of ideas that occur within a specific group or over time.

Strengths

  • Provides objective analysis of written materials and can identify meaning from text data

  • Allows managers to go through very large amounts of text quickly

  • Can quantify qualitative data

Limitations

  • May not include all the values present in the study

  • Results can be skewed and slanted if words misinterpreted

  • Requires preparation and training of all individuals involved

  • Different researchers may have different interpretations of the material, causing inconsistent or conflicting results

  • Accuracy of the method depends on analyzing data that are representative of what is occurring to prevent inaccurate or biased results

Expertise Needed

This technique often requires some assistance from skilled experts or the use of specialized software that can analyze text for underlying meanings.

Resources: Books and Publications

  • Krippendorff, K. 1980. Content analysis: An introduction to its methodology. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

  • Weber, R. P. 1990. Basic content analysis. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Resources: Websites

  • Content Analysis Resources
    Provides links to sites that provide information regarding people who are working with content analysis, the projects on which they are working, and the facilities in which they work.

  • An Introduction to Content Analysis
    This complete guide from Colorado State University includes an in-depth overview of content analysis including history, uses, and types. Additional commentary includes issues of reliability and variability and advantages and disadvantages when using this method.