Content analysis is a term used to refer to the act of altering the symbolic composition of a document from qualitative form to quantitative form. Content analysis may also be described as an example of coding. Coding means compiling similar elements or behaviors into a reduced number of categories. It is normally done on firsthand information collected by the investigator of a given study.
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In content analysis, for instance, coding is done for different purposes apart from research but made available for the purposes of studies and researches. In both cases, however, coding schemes are developed to help in the quantification of data (Monette, Sullivan, & De Jong, 2010).
It is important to note that coming up with a coding scheme plays an imperative role in the process of content analysis. Coding schemes vary depending on the variables and the hypotheses that form part of the study. During content analysis, investigators may come across already existing coding schemes. Similarly, some researches develop their own coding schemes depending on the situation of their research. Despite the fact that both cases are acceptable during any study, existing coding schemes come in handy. They are particularly helpful in saving the time of researchers, their money and energy (Monette, Sullivan, & De Jong, 2010).
There are quite a number of characteristics that make coding schemes viable. For instance, they must be mutually exclusive and exhaustive. Exhaustive coding schemes are easily developed in situations where there are only limited probabilities in a study. Mutually exclusive coding schemes, on the other hand, apply in situations where only precise definitions are required for every category (Monette, Sullivan, & De Jong, 2010).
After establishing the categories for a study, it is important that researchers make rational decisions of the exact aspects of a document to be recorded for the purposed of their study. This is usually done through the four units of analysis. They include a major character, a theme, a word or a paragraph. The most reliable unit is a word.
This is because it allows researchers to record the existence of some words in the documents conveniently. For instance, just one word may be able to qualify as a suitable indicator of the subject investigators need to measure depending on the number of times it appears. In the event that this happens, this word then becomes the preferable choice for the study (Monette, Sullivan, & De Jong, 2010).
A theme, as opposed to word, refers to the subject matter of the study. It is important to note that well-constructed documents are channeled towards portraying a single theme and hence the theme can be pointed out by their readers. The main character is also a unit of analysis that can be used in content analysis especially by basing arguments on the most outstanding character in a document like a play. A sentence, just like every other unit of analysis, can be used to categorize a document. However, this unit of analysis may not be very reliable when formulating mutually exclusive categories since it is generalized (Monette, Sullivan, & De Jong, 2010).
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During content analysis, investigators normally come across latent coding and manifest coding. Manifest coding is a term used to refer to the coding done on the prevalent content of a document. For instance, manifest coding can be denoted by the number of times a word appears in an excerpt or document. Latent coding, on the other hand, is used in situations when the investigator has to decide whether a word, sentence or theme is represented in a document to portray a broader category or not (Monette, Sullivan, & De Jong, 2010).
Content analysis involves a number of considerations all of which are applied differently. The variables for this subject matter are all distinct. However, they correlate but are all used separately on separate occasions. Their incorporation in the analysis of a subjects aims at establishing the most comprehensive quantitative analysis of the subject.
Monette, D. R., Sullivan, T.J., & De Jong, C.R. (2010). Applied Social Research: A Tool for the Human Services (8th Edition). Boston, Mass: Thompson Publishing.