Content Analysis: A Quick Guide to Powerful Methodology

content-analysisThe words ‘content analysis’ sound as frightening as music in horror films. However, looking through this quick guide to the content analysis method, you will be armed to the teeth. The words ‘content analysis’ will become clear and familiar and will not make you shiver anymore.

Content Analysis Definition

What is content analysis? Content analysis is a method of studying communication and finding the tools used by the authors to convey their messages to the audience. You can analyze all sorts of communication, including not only written texts, but also artworks, TV and radio records, oral communication, websites, advertisements.
Note: You should not confuse content analysis with summary or review. Content analysis does not mean retelling or reinterpreting something. It means separating important parts of the content and explaining how they work together. In other words, it does not mean taking photos, it means taking to pieces.

Content Analysis: Proven Formula

The proven formula of content analysis consists of the following elements: WHO says WHAT to WHOM? WHY? HOW? To WHAT EFFECTS? To answer these questions, you should look for evidence in the communication you analyze. Certain words, phrases, constructions, contours, shapes, symbols and other elements can be used as evidence.
Note: Applying content analysis to Shakespeare’s works, some scholars argue that it was not William Shakespeare who wrote Romeo and Juliet and other masterpieces traditionally attributed to him. So, finding certain words and constructions in these tragedies, scholars make assumptions as to WHO says WHAT.


Content Analysis: Discourse

Discourse analysis is another frightening term, but in fact it is a powerful method that can be used in content analysis for unveiling the hidden messages of the author. Discourse is the perspective taken by the author for creating a particular text. You can see if the author tries to manipulate readers’ minds by using certain words.
E.g. Speaking about change management, scholars use war terms, such as company disruption and employees’ resistance. It means that there is some implied meaning in the text. The author does not say directly that the changes are not in the best interests of employees, but this assumption is clear from the war discourse used in the text.

Content Analysis: Methodology

When analyzing the content of a communication, you should pay attention to the choice of content analysis method. There are two basic methods:

  • conceptual analysis usually relies on calculating the number of occurrences of certain words or concepts in the text. For instance, you may want to count how many times the word ‘love’ and related concepts were used in Romeo and Juliet. Be careful when selecting such topics and note that it will take a lot of time.
  • relational analysis investigates the relations between different concepts. For instance, it is possible to analyze the relations between love and hatred in Romeo and Juliet. What effects does the presence of these conflicting emotions produce upon readers?

Now all the mystery about content analysis is unveiled, and you see that there is nothing frightening about it. Next time when you are assigned with good old content analysis, you may just smile and use this quick guide that will become your secret weapon.

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