Content analysis is a research method used in sociology. It's a form of secondary analysis, meaning one does not go out into the field and interview people or hand out surveys. Instead, content analysis is done by reading or viewing printed text or photographs (newspaper and magazine articles, political speeches, advertisements etc.) and looking for themes throughout them. Content analysis was first applied to Nazi propaganda.

There are seven steps in setting up content analysis...

  1. Get a question, something you want to look for, etc. essentially a hypothesis.
  2. Identify a population of documents that will answer/pertain to your question or hypothesis. If you're looking at freedom, you will want to find articles that pertain to freedom.
  3. Define the unit of analysis. Are you going to be looking at ads? Speeches? Newspaper articles? Just the introductions? etc.
  4. Take a random sample. Mix up all your articles some how and choose one at random. Could be done by assigning each article a number and drawing from a hat.
  5. Design coding procedures. Usually referred to as operationalizing, choose how you'll know freedom if one talks about it in an article. If looking at desperateness in personal ads, for example, choose words or phrases that will show how desperate one seems.
  6. Test and refine codings. Always important, make sure that you're looking for the right things in your articles.
  7. Do the analysis and counting. Read through the articles and look for the mentions of freedom, note how it pertains to your hypothesis.

Things to look for:

  1. Time and space: See how long an article is on your topic, how long the segment is on the news show.
  2. Appearance system: Count the number of articles that your hypothesis appears in.
  3. Frequency system: Similar to appearance, note the number of times your hypothesis appears, not just the number of articles it appears in.
  4. Intensity system: Measure how intense the appearance of something pertaining to your hypothesis is. If looking at desperateness, note the age range a person is looking for, look at the words they use, etc.

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