Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches
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Edited by Larry Dwyer, Alison Gill and Neelu Seetaram
Chapter 23: Content Analysis
Svetlana Stepchenkova NATURE OF CONTENT ANALYSIS AND ITS EVOLUTION Content analysis was famously defined by Harold Lasswell as the technique that “aims at describing, with optimum objectivity, precision, and generality, what is said on a given subject in a given place at a given time” (Lasswell et al., 1952, p. 34). More recently, Weber (1990, p. 9) defined content analysis as “a research method that uses a set of procedures to make valid inferences from text.” While these definitions emphasize textual materials as objects of content analysis, other scholars consider the method applicable to a broader range of content. According to Cartwright (1953, p. 424), the term refers “to the objective, systematic, and quantitative description of any symbolic behavior.” In a similar definition Berelson (1952, p. 18) states that “content analysis is a research technique for the objective, systematic, and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication.” Shapiro and Markoff (1997, p. 14) comparatively analysed various definitions of the term along several dimensions and suggested their own “minimal definition”: content analysis is “any methodological measurement applied to text (or other symbolic material) for social science purposes.” Content analysis examines data for patterns and structures, singles out the key features, develops categories, and aggregates them into perceptible constructs in order to seize meaning of communications (Gray and Densten, 1998); thus, the process involves the systematic reduction of the content flow, whether textual or otherwise symbolic. Content analysis is capable of capturing a richer sense of concepts within the data due...
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