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Study Notes

Content Analysis

AS, A-Level
AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Last updated 22 Mar 2021

Content analysis is a method used to analyse qualitative data (non-numerical data). In its most common form it is a technique that allows a researcher to take qualitative data and to transform it into quantitative data (numerical data). The technique can be used for data in many different formats, for example interview transcripts, film, and audio recordings.

The researcher conducting a content analysis will use ‘coding units’ in their work. These units vary widely depending on the data used, but an example would be the number of positive or negative words used by a mother to describe her child’s behaviour or the number of swear words in a film.

The procedure for a content analysis is shown below:

Strengths of content analysis

It is a reliable way to analyse qualitative data as the coding units are not open to interpretation and so are applied in the same way over time and with different researchers

It is an easy technique to use and is not too time consuming

It allows a statistical analysis to be conducted if required as there is usually quantitative data as a result of the procedure

Weaknesses of content analysis

Causality cannot be established as it merely describes the data

As it only describes the data it cannot extract any deeper meaning or explanation for the data patterns arising.

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