Select your language

Suggested languages for you:
Log In Start studying!
StudySmarter - The all-in-one study app.
4.8 • +11k Ratings
More than 3 Million Downloads
Free
|
|

All-in-one learning app

  • Flashcards
  • NotesNotes
  • ExplanationsExplanations
  • Study Planner
  • Textbook solutions
Start studying

Content Analysis

Save Save
Print Print
Edit Edit
Sign up to use all features for free. Sign up now
Content Analysis

When analysing data, the researchers are typically looking for specific characteristics or traits. After all, they collect data in the first place to answer a question or test their hypothesis. So certain aspects of the data must reflect their tests this is where content analysis comes in.

Content analysis is an observational analysis method used to identify words, themes, and concepts in qualitative data and convert them into quantitative data. This method follows a similar protocol as thematic analysis. Once done, inferential tests serve to learn more about patterns and trends in the data.

Content Analysis Interview StudySmarter

Interview, Flaticon

Data collection methods used for content analysis

Researchers can use content analysis for various data collection methods as long as it generates qualitative data. Some examples of data collection methods include:

  • Interviews.

  • Speeches.

  • Diaries.

  • Letters.

How is a content analysis carried out?

There are several steps researchers must follow when using content analysis as a data analysis method. We describe these below.

The stages of content analysis

Stage 1 Researchers must prepare the data, i.e. transcribe it or format in some way to analyse it.

Stage 2 Determining how to measure data, i.e., the units of measurement. These may be words, phrases, or topics highlighted each time they appear in the text.

Stage 3 Determining codes and the coding system. The researcher identifies common themes in the phenomenon and decides what to include in their analysis. These are predefined words or themes highlighted each time they appear in the text. The themes should all be a unit of measurement for the variables under study in accordance with the hypothesis. The coding system essentially 'counts' each time a selected theme or word appears (the transformation to quantitative data).

The researcher can define these based on the data, previous researchers, and established theories. They will then find a way to code the text.

Stage 4 Testing the coding sample on an excerpt of the text. It is similar to a pilot study and allows the researcher to determine if the coding system is a valid measure of the phenomenon and if adjustments are needed.

Stage 5 Coding the text. Researchers convert the data from qualitative to quantitative.

Stage 6 Checking the reliability of the coding system and the data. Researchers need to make sure that if the same data are coded again, similar results will be reported, indicating the high reliability of the system. To do so, it is good to have more than one person do the coding and compare their results to see if they are similar.

Stage 7 Using the coded data for inferential statistics and concluding whether the data support or negate the proposed hypothesis.

Stage 8 The final stage is to report the results and draw conclusions.

Content analysis example

The following example is based on a research scenario that uses semi-structured interviews to investigate children's levels of aggression and loneliness six months after being adopted.

Stage 1 The data must be prepared.

The first step is to transcribe the interview, i.e., to record every word or sentence and every sound and action made.

Stage 2 Determining how to measure data.

In this case, the researchers decide to code for words and behaviours that indicate loneliness or aggression.

Stage 3 Determining codes and the coding system.

The researcher must then determine in advance which words and behaviours they will highlight that indicate loneliness or anger. For example, participants raise their voices, curse, cry, or say phrases such as 'I feel lonely'. The coding system tallies how frequently the 'units' of the variables occur.

These are called units because they are a way to measure the variable.

Content Analysis Tally Frequency StudySmarter

The frequency of a unit to measure the variable, Pixabay

Stage 4 Testing the coding sample on an excerpt of the text.

The researchers use the answer to the first question as a pilot extract to determine if the coding system is a valid and reliable measure of the variables.

Content Analysis Reliability and validity StudySmarter

Reliability and validity, Manreet Thind - StudySmarter Originals (Images from Pixabay)

Stage 5 Coding the text.

After adjusting the system and proving its reliability and validity, the entire data can be coded.

Stage 6 Checking the reliability of the coding system and the data.

Then another researcher codes the transcript without looking at the other researcher's work. Once this is done, the coded data is checked to see if both researchers have reached the same conclusions.

Stage 7 and 8 Using the coded data for inferential statistics, reporting the results and drawing conclusions.

In the final stages, the researchers transform the data to use it for inferential statistics. In this case, they analyse the participants' data to obtain an overall score for aggressiveness and loneliness. They conducted an independent t-test to compare these scores to those of children who were adopted and those who were not. Finally, the researchers must report the results and the conclusions drawn.

These are the basic steps of conducting a content analysis. However, they may vary from research to research as there is no standard procedure for conducting content analysis coding of online quantitative methods such as inferential statistics.

Evaluation of content analysis

The use of content analysis is widespread in psychological research. There are many advantages to using this data analysis method. However, there are also disadvantages to consider when using this method. Researchers need to keep these in mind to determine if the data analysis method is appropriate.If researchers determine that the method is not appropriate for their research, using the wrong method may invalidate or omit important information in their results (e.g., if their research is better suited to another qualitative data analysis method, such as thematic analysis).

Strengths of content analysis

The strengths of content analysis are:

  • The quantitative data allow for easier comparison of results and identification and reporting of observed trends.
  • It can have high reliability because the process is standardised, and steps are taken to ensure that multiple researchers coding the data and checking for consistent results do so reliably and in accordance with the established system.
  • It is a relatively cheap method.

Weaknesses of content analysis

The weaknesses of content analysis are:

Researchers may omit vital data if it does not fit into the predetermined theme.

  • It is challenging to remain objective in this method:
  • There is an increased risk that the researcher bias will influence the analysis, affecting the validity of the results. Researchers actively try to find specific content and may neglect or ignore other content in the hope of searching for their relevant content.

The context of the data is usually cut out, which can lead to misinterpretation and reduce the validity of the results. When we take out the context, the meaning can change drastically.

Content analysis vs thematic analysis

Content analysis is an analysis method for identifying words, themes, and concepts in qualitative data and converting them into quantitative data.

The two types of analysis differ in that content analysis quantifies qualitative data (converts it from qualitative to quantitative), while thematic analysis produces qualitative data.

  • The type of analysis the researcher will use depends on the type of data they are looking for:
  • For example, if the researcher is conducting a case study, they would use thematic analysis to obtain enriched data that will help them learn more about the patterns or trends of the phenomenon.
  • On the other hand, they may use content analysis to determine the relationship between specific themes/behaviours and a phenomenon, for example.

Content Analysis - Key takeaways

  • Content analysis is an analysis method for identifying words, themes, and concepts in qualitative data and converting them into quantitative data. This method follows a similar protocol to thematic analysis.
  • Content analysis can be used for various data collection methods as long as qualitative data is produced. Some examples include interviews, speeches, diaries, and letters.
  • There are eight steps that researchers must follow when using content analysis as a data analysis method.
    • These stages are not only for creating the coding system but also for checking its reliability and validity.
  • Some advantages of this method are that it is relatively inexpensive, it is easier to identify patterns and trends, and the process includes several steps that improve the reliability of this data analysis method.
  • The disadvantages of content analysis are that the researcher's bias can easily influence the analysis, vital data may be omitted, and the context of the data can be lost.
  • Sometimes researchers use thematic analysis instead of content analysis, usually because they feel that the research is of a higher standard when conducted in qualitative form.

Frequently Asked Questions about Content Analysis

Content analysis is an analysis method for identifying words, themes and concepts in qualitative data and transforming them into quantitative data. This method follows a similar protocol to thematic analysis. However, thematic analysis focuses on qualitative data.

There are eight steps to conducting content analysis:

  1. Preparing data. 
  2. Determining how to measure data.
  3. Determining codes and the coding system.
  4. Testing the coding sample on an excerpt of the data.
  5. Coding the text.
  6. Checking the reliability of the coding system and the data.
  7. Carrying out inferential statistics.
  8. Reporting results.

Content analysis is carried out on qualitative data. However, its procedure involves transforming the qualitative data to quantitative. 

Content analysis methodology needs to be written in thorough detail to replicate the research. In addition, the researcher needs to justify why they chose to do what they did to identify any potential biases.

The two types of analysis differ in that content analysis quantifies qualitative data (transforms it from qualitative to quantitative), whereas thematic analysis produces qualitative data.

Final Content Analysis Quiz

Question

What type of data is used in the content analysis?

Show answer

Answer

Qualitative.

Show question

Question

What type of data content analysis generates?

Show answer

Answer

Qualitative.

Show question

Question

What are examples of data collections when using content analysis as an analysis method? 

Show answer

Answer

  • Interviews.
  • Speeches.
  • Diaries. 
  • Letters. 

Show question

Question

How many stages of content analysis are there? 

Show answer

Answer

7

Show question

Question

What sources can researchers use to define categories in their coding system? 

Show answer

Answer

They can define categories based on the data, previous researchers, and established theories. 

Show question

Question

Why is the coding system tested on an extract first?

Show answer

Answer

When the researcher tests the coding system on an extract first, they can identify if it is a valid measure of the phenomenon and if any adjustments are needed.

Show question

Question

What is the name of a similar concept to testing analysis systems on an extract first?

Show answer

Answer

Pilot study.

Show question

Question

What stage is the data transformed from qualitative to quantitative?

Show answer

Answer

Stage 4.

Show question

Question

How is the reliability of the coded data assessed?

Show answer

Answer

To do so, it is good to have more than one person do the coding and compare their results to see if they are similar.

Show question

Question

What is done in the final two stages of content analysis?

Show answer

Answer

Inferential testing.

Show question

Question

What is an example of how to prepare data for content analysis?

Show answer

Answer

Transcribing data.

Show question

Question

What is the difference between content analysis and thematic analysis?

Show answer

Answer

The two types of analysis differ in that content analysis quantifies qualitative data (transforms it from qualitative to quantitative), whereas thematic analysis produces qualitative data.

Show question

Question

What are the strengths of content analysis?

Show answer

Answer

The strengths of content analysis are:

  • The quantitative data allow for easier comparison of results and identification and reporting of observed trends.
  • It can have high reliability because the process is standardised, and steps are taken to ensure that multiple researchers coding the data and checking for consistent results do so reliably and in accordance with the established system.
  • It is a relatively cheap method.

Show question

Question

What are the weaknesses of content analysis?

Show answer

Answer

The weaknesses of content analysis are:

  • Researchers may omit vital data if it does not fit into the predetermined theme.
  • It is challenging to remain objective in this method:
    • There is an increased risk that the researcher bias will influence the analysis, affecting the validity of the results. Researchers actively try to find specific content and may neglect or ignore other content in the hope of searching for their relevant content.
  • The context of the data is usually cut out, which can lead to misinterpretation and reduce the validity of the results. When we take out the context, the meaning can change drastically.

Show question

Question

What can inferential tests show? 

Show answer

Answer

Patterns.

Show question

60%

of the users don't pass the Content Analysis quiz! Will you pass the quiz?

Start Quiz

Discover the right content for your subjects

No need to cheat if you have everything you need to succeed! Packed into one app!

Study Plan

Be perfectly prepared on time with an individual plan.

Quizzes

Test your knowledge with gamified quizzes.

Flashcards

Create and find flashcards in record time.

Notes

Create beautiful notes faster than ever before.

Study Sets

Have all your study materials in one place.

Documents

Upload unlimited documents and save them online.

Study Analytics

Identify your study strength and weaknesses.

Weekly Goals

Set individual study goals and earn points reaching them.

Smart Reminders

Stop procrastinating with our study reminders.

Rewards

Earn points, unlock badges and level up while studying.

Magic Marker

Create flashcards in notes completely automatically.

Smart Formatting

Create the most beautiful study materials using our templates.

Just Signed up?

Yes
No, I'll do it now

Sign up to highlight and take notes. It’s 100% free.