The method is popular with mass media researchers because it is an efficient way to investigate the content of the media, such as the number and types of commercials or advertisements in broadcasting or the print media. Content analysis can be traced back to World War II, by comparing the music played on German stations with that on other stations in occupied Europe,
After the war, researchers used content analysis to study propaganda in newspapers and radio.
An informal content analysis of three journals that focus on mass communication research (Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly, and Mass Communication and Society) from 2007 to 2008 found that content analysis was still a popular method, used in about one-third of all published articles.
DEFINITION OF CONTENT ANALYSIS
There are many definitions of content analysis.
Kerlinger's (2000) definition is fairly typical: Content analysis is a method of studying and analyzing communication in a systematic, objective, and quantitative manner for the purpose of measuring variables. Kerlinger's definition involves three concepts that require elaboration.
First, content analysis is systematic.
This means that the content to be analyzed is selected according to explicit and consistently applied rules: Sample selection must follow proper procedures, and each item must have an equal chance of being included in the analysis. Moreover, the evaluation process must be
systematic: All content under consideration is to be treated in exactly the same manner.
Second, content analysis is objective;
The researcher's personal biases should not enter into the findings. The analysis should yield the same results if another researcher replicates the study.
Third, content analysis is quantitative. The goal of content analysis is an accurate representation of a body of messages. Quantification is important in fulfilling that objective and it aids researchers in the quest for precision, summarize results and to report them concisely. It gives researchers additional statistical tools that can aid in interpretation and analysis.
USES OF CONTENT ANALYSIS
Using content analysis, conducted for one of five purposes.
Describing Communication Content
These studies demonstrate content analysis used in the traditional, descriptive manner: to identify what exists. For example, Cann and Mohr (2001) examined the gender of journalists on Australian TV newscasts.
One of the advantages of content analysis is its potential to identify developments over long time periods. Cho (2007) illustrated how TV newscasts portrayed plastic surgery over the course of three decades.
These descriptive studies also can be used to study societal change. For example, changing public opinion on various controversial issues could be gauged with a longitudinal study (see Chapter 8) of letters to the editor or newspaper editorials.
Testing Hypotheses of Message Characteristics
Content analysis has been used in many studies that test hypotheses of form: "If the source has characteristic A, then messages containing elements x and y will be produced; if the source has characteristic B, then messages with elements w and z will be produced
Comparing Media Content to the "Real World"
In content analyses, the portrayal of a certain group, phenomenon, trait, or characteristic is assessed against a standard taken from real life. The congruence (comparison) of the media presentation and the actual situation is then discussed.
Assessing the Image of Particular Groups in Society
The content analyses have focused on exploring the media images of certain minority or otherwise notable groups and to assess changes in media policy toward these groups, to make inferences about the media's responsiveness to demands for better coverage, or to document social trends.
Establishing a Starting Point for Studies of Media Effects
The use of content analysis is used for cultivation analysis. Content analysis is also used in studies of agenda setting and cultivation effect.
LIMITATIONS OF CONTENT ANALYSIS
Content analysis cannot serve as the sole basis for claims about media effects.
Another potential limitation of content analysis is a lack of messages relevant to the research. Many topics or characters receive little exposure in the mass media.
Content analysis is frequently time consuming and expensive. The task of examining and categorizing large volumes of content is often laborious and tedious.
STEPS IN CONTENT ANALYSIS
In general, a content analysis is conducted in several discrete stages. The following steps may be used as a rough outline:
1. Formulate the research question or hypothesis.
2. Define the universe in question.
3. Select an appropriate sample from the population.
4. Select and define a unit of analysis.
5. Construct the categories of content to be analyzed.
6. Establish a quantification system.
7. Train coders and conduct a pilot study.
8. Code the content according to established definitions.
9. Analyze the collected data.
10. Draw conclusions and search for indications.
1. Formulating a Research Question
A content analysis should be guided by well-formulated research questions or hypotheses. A basic review of the literature is a required step. It is possible to generate a research question based on existing theory, prior research, or practical problems, or as a response to changing social conditions.
2. Defining the Universe
To "define the universe" is to specify the boundaries of the body of content to be considered, which requires an appropriate operational definition of the relevant population. If researchers are interested in analyzing the content of popular songs, they must define what is meant by a "popular song": They must also ask what time period will be considered: The past 6 months? Two dimensions are usually used to determine the appropriate universe for a content analysis—the topic area and the time period.
3. Selecting a Sample
Once the universe is defined, a sample is selected. Most content analysis in mass media involves multistage sampling. This process typically consists of two stages. The first stage is usually to take a sampling of content sources.
4. Selecting a Unit of Analysis
The next step in the content analysis process is to select the unit of analysis, which is the smallest element of a content analysis but also one of the most important. In written content, the unit of analysis might be a single word or symbol, a theme, or an entire article or story. In television and film analyses, units of analysis can be characters, acts, or entire programs. Specific rules and definitions are required for determining these units to ensure closer agreement among coders and fewer judgment calls. Certain units of analysis are simpler to count than others.
5. Constructing Content Categories At the heart of any content analysis is the category system used to classify media content. The precise makeup of this system, of course, varies with the topic under study.
There are two ways to go about establishing content categories. Emergent coding establishes categories after a preliminary examination of the data. The other hand, a priori coding establishes the categories before the data are collected, based on some theoretical or conceptual rationale.
To be serviceable, all category systems should be mutually exclusive, exhaustive, and reliable. A category system is mutually exclusive if a unit of analysis can be placed in one and only one category.
The categorization system should also be reliable; that is, different coders should agree in the great majority of instances about the proper category for each unit of analysis. This agreement is usually quantified in content analysis and is called intercoder reliability.
6. Establishing a Quantification
Quantification in content analysis can involve all four of the levels of data measurement nominal, interval, and ratio data are used.
At the nominal level, researchers simply count the frequency of occurrence of the units in each category. Thus Signorielli, McLeod, and Healy (1994) analyzed commercials on MTV and found that 6.5% of the male characters were coded as wearing somewhat sexy clothing among the female characters, however, the corresponding percentages were 24% and 29%.
At the interval level, it is possible to develop scales for coders to use to rate certain attributes of characters or situations. For example, in a study dealing with the images of women in commercials, each character might be rated by coders on several scales like these:
Independent _:_:_:_:_ Dependent Dominant : : : : Submissive
At the ratio level, measurements in mass media research are generally applied to space and time. In television and radio, ratio-level measurements are made concerning time: the number of commercial minutes, the types of programs on the air, the amount of the program day devoted to programs of various types, and so on.
7. Training Coders and Doing a Pilot Study
Placing a unit of analysis into a content category is called coding. Individuals who do the coding are called coders. The number of coders involved in a content analysis is typically small; typically two to six coders are used. Next, a pilot study is done to check intercoder reliability. The pilot study should be conducted with a fresh set of coders who are given some initial training to impart familiarity with the instructions and the methods of the study.
8. Coding the Content according to established definitions
Standardized sheets are usually used to ease coding. These sheets allow coders to classify the data by placing check marks or slashes in predetermined spaces
Code all characters that appear on the screen for at least 90 seconds and/or speak more than 15 words (include cartoon narrator when applicable). Complete one sheet for each character to be coded.
A. Character number, code two-digit program number first (listed on page 12 of this instruction book), followed by two-digit character number randomly assigned to each character (starting with 01).
B. Character name: list all formal names, nicknames, or dual identity names (code dual identity behavior as one character's actions). List description of character if name is not identifiable.
1-Major: major characters share the majority of dialogue during the program, play the largest role in the dramatic action, and appear on the screen for the longest period of time during the program.
2-Minor: all codeable characters that are not identified as major characters.
3-Other (individual): one character that does not meet coding requirements but is involved in a behavioral act that is coded.
4-Other (group): two or more characters that are simultaneously involved in a behavioral act but do not meet coding requirements.
1-Human: any character resembling man, even ghost or apparition if it appears in human form
(e.g., the Ghostbusters)
2-Animal: any character resembling bird, fish, beast, or insect; may or may not be capable of
human speech (e.g., muppets, smurfs, Teddy Ruxpin)
3-Monster/Ghost: any supernatural creature (e.g., my pet monster, ghosts)
4-Robot: mechanical creature (e.g., transformers)
5-Animated object: any inanimate object (e.g., car, telephone) that acts like a sentient being
When a computer is used in tabulating data, the data are usually transferred directly to a spreadsheet or data file, or perhaps to mark-sense forms or optical scan sheets (answer sheets scored by computer). These forms save time and reduce data errors. There are many software programs available that can aid in the content analysis of text documents. Some of the more common are TextSmart, VBPro, and ProfilerPlus.
9. Analyzing the Data
The descriptive statistics such as percentages, means, modes, and medians, are appropriate for content analysis.. The chi-square test is the most commonly used because content analysis data tend to be nominal in form; however, if the data meet the requirements of interval or ratio levels, then a t-test, ANOVA, or Pearson's r may be appropriate.
10. Interpreting the Results
If the study is descriptive, however, questions may arise about the meaning or importance of the
The concept of reliability is crucial to content analysis. If a content analysis is to be objective, its measures and procedures must be reliable. A study is reliable when repeated measurement of the same material results in similar decisions or conclusions.