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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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