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Study notes

Content and Thematic Analysis

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Content analysis refers to the process in which presentations of behaviour or qualitative data from self-reports are analysed.

Content Analysis

In order to achieve this, researchers need to establish their aims and hypotheses and familiarise themselves with data so that a suitable coding system can be developed.  Once suitable codes have been identified, the researcher can then systematically re-analyse the data to identify examples of each code which could then be tallied. 

Whenever content analyses are carried out, data needs to be consulted a number of times, initially to identify codes/ themes and again (as many times as required) to refine and count instances of these.

Strengths of Content Analysis

Offers a method to analyse a variety of forms of data including media and self-report methods so that insights into cultural trends and experiences can be understood.

Limitations of Content Analysis

The identification of suitable themes and codes is subjective and decided by the researcher alone, meaning that conclusions lack any scrutiny or objectivity

Thematic Analysis

An alternative to content analysis which converts qualitative data into quantitative data, is to use thematic analysis.  

Once data is transcribed (where necessary) data is reviewed repeatedly so that the researcher can identify trends in the meaning conveyed by language.  

The themes identified are re-analysed so that they become more refined and relevant and given short hand codes.  The researcher can then annotate the transcript with the codes that have been identified.  

The themes identified can be used to support or challenge existing theories, with specific examples of data or quotes being used as supporting evidence.


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