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Chapter 8:

Conducting Content Analysis 



I. Analysis of Message Qualities: When
 Do We Complete Content Analysis?

--Though often considered a method 
of quantitative research because numerical information is gathered. Yet, content analysis also can be useful as qualitative analysis since the analysis of data may involve the search for literal meanings. “From this perspective, content analysis is not a reductionistic, positivistic approach. Rather, it is a passport to listening to the words of the text and
understanding better the perspective(s) of the producer of these words” (Berg, 2007, p. 308).

--Content analysis is an efficient way to sift through large amounts of content.

--Content analysis and interactional/relational analyses are invited when the problem question asks about qualities of texts. In
particular, content analyses are invited when the problem question asks about characteristics of messages that could be categorized and counted.

--As an indication of the versatility of these tools, research questions also invite content analysis and interactional/relational analysis when they deal with: comparison patterns of messages, message flow, or dominance from different sources; comparisons of message content with
real life; contrasting the image of specific groups of people in society; changing uses of messages by different people or groups;
applications of standard evaluation systems to actual messages; comparisons of communication patterns across cultures; and studies challenging assumptions of fairness,
equality, and diversity.

II.  Functions of Content Analysis

--Of the research goals of description,
explanation, prediction, and control, content analysis functions for description and explanation.

--Content analysis functioning for
description may complement other research methods and generate new suggestions for research.

III.   Performing Content Analysis

--Content analyses are useful to:

·  characterize communication and make intriguing comparisons.

·  study nontraditional settings.

A.  Steps in Content Analysis

1.  Define and limit the communication population to
be studied.

content analysis: “any of several  to research techniques used to describe and systematically analyze the content of  written, spoken, or pictorial communication—such as books, newspapers, television programs, or interview transcripts” (Vogt, 2005, p. 59).

2.      Select coding units and
--requirements:  exhaustive

classifications;  mutually exclusive categories;  use
of coding rules for placing
objects in categories

coding units: in content analysis, categories used to count the communication forms in the examples chosen


manifest content: the expression of communication elements that are immediately visible.

latent content: the underlying meaning to which sets of manifest indicators point.

3.   sample messages

-- --methods for sampling:

random:  every instance in the population has an equal chance of being selected;

stratification:  strata are identified and a random sample within each stratum is proportionately selected;

interval:  instances of communication at specific units in time;

cluster:  groups of messages appear in a cluster that already exists
multistage:  instances selected sequentially

4.  Code message content

                --reliability must be shown;


reliability: the internal consistency of a

--arguments for validity should be made

validity: test validity is the consistency of a measure with a criterion

--training of coders must be completed

5.  Analyze data, most often by reporting simple descriptive statistics

6.  Interpret results

B.  Limitations of the Approach

1.  Content analyses do not permit one to draw cause-and-effect conclusions.

2.  It often is difficult finding
representative samples.

3.  Results of one content analysis generally cannot be applied to others that use different categories.

IV. Applications of Content Analysis


A.  Interaction Analysis

interaction analysis: studies that focus on ways of tracking individual acts of communicators. 

--interacts:  one person's conversation
and the reaction of another

--double interacts:  an interact followed
by the first person's response to the    other person's reaction


·  Bales’ Interaction Process Analysis

--the basis for much other work.

--limitation: coding does not allow the researcher to account for the task-relevancy of a particular communicative behavior.

·  Hirokawa’s functional group theory extends on Bales’ work

--Rather than coding each statement made by group


members, the functional utterance is used. This
flexible notion of an
utterance means that such
a contribution is the uninterrupted functional contribution of one person
and may include more than one contribution in a single turn. 

functional utterance: in functional group theory, “an uninterrupted utterance of a single group member which appears to perform a specific function within the group interaction process” (Hirokawa, 1982, p. 139).


  1. Relational Control Analysis
    --relational control categories and

interpreting relational codes

--transaction codes indicating relationships

--different forms of control relationships:

·  Symmetrical forms involve interactants making the same kinds of contributions.

·  Complementary forms involve
interactants making virtually
the opposite kinds of contributions to the relational control issue.

·  Transitory forms include a
one-across contribution

C.  Using Interaction and Relational Control Analysis

1.  Decide on a coding system

2.  Train people to code
communication examples

3.  Sample communication transactions

4.  Code message content

5.  Interpretation

      D. Limitations of the Approach

--may not be useful to assess
perceptions or interpretations
of  individuals;  cannot draw conclusions about cause and effect relationships

relational control analysis:  a method that tracks message sequences to determine the relative patterns of position and control in the relationship