Content analysis in sociology is Definition, types and methods, examples

Content analysis in sociology is Definition, types and methods, examples
Content analysis in sociology is Definition, types and methods, examples

Bernard Berelson defined content analysis as "a research method for objective, systematic, and quantitative description of the explicit content of messages." Content analysis in sociology is a research tool focused on the actual content and internal features of the data. It is used to detect the presence of certain words, concepts, themes, phrases, characters or sentences in texts or sets of texts and to quantify that presence in an objective way.

Working group

Texts can be broadly defined as books, book chapters, essays, interviews, discussions, newspaper headlines and articles, historical documents, speeches, conversations, advertisements, theatre, informal conversation or even any appearance of a communicative language. To conduct content analysis, the text is coded or broken down into manageable categories at different levels: word, word meaning, phrase, sentence or topic, andthen researched using one of the content analysis methods. In sociology, it is a conceptual or relational analysis. The results are then used to draw inferences about the messages within the text, the author, the audience, and even the culture and time in which they participate. For example, content may indicate features such as completeness or intent, bias, prejudice, and mistrust of authors, publishers, and anyone else responsible for the content.

History of content analysis

Content analysis is a product of the electronic age. It began in the 1920s in American journalism, when content analysis was used to study the content of the press. At present, the scope of application has greatly expanded and includes a number of areas.

Although content analysis was performed regularly as early as the 1940s, it only became a more reliable and commonly used research method in the following decade, as researchers began to focus on concepts rather than just words, and on semantic relationships, not just presence.

Using content analysis

Work with text

Due to the fact that it can be used to study any piece of text or record, i.e. to analyze any documents, content analysis is used in sociology and in other areas, starting with marketing and media research ending with literature and rhetoric, ethnography and cultural studies, gender and age issues, for analysisdata in sociology and political science, psychology and cognitive science, as well as other areas of research. In addition, content analysis reflects a close relationship with socio- and psycholinguistics and plays an integral role in the development of artificial intelligence. The following list offers more options for using content analysis:

  • Detect international differences in communication content.
  • Detecting the existence of propaganda.
  • Determining the intent, focus, or trend of an individual, group, or institution's communication.
  • Description of relationships and behavioral responses to communications.
  • Determining the psychological or emotional state of people or groups.

Objects for content analysis

TV with remote control

In sociology, content analysis is the study of texts to study the social processes (objects or phenomena) that these texts represent. The sources of sociological information are protocols, reports, decisions, speeches of politicians, newspapers, magazines, works, illustrations, films, blogs, diaries, etc. Based on changes in texts, one can identify various trends, political and ideological attitudes, and the deployment of political forces., the functioning of public institutions of interest, public organizations and parties that are directly related to the object of analysis.

Types of content analysis

Content analysis in sociology is the most important method of collecting and processing documentary information. It can be used for bothfor the initial collection of data, and for processing already collected data - for example, when working with transcripts of interviews, focus groups, etc. There are two general types of content analysis in sociology: conceptual and relational analysis. Conceptual can be seen as establishing the existence and frequency of concepts in a text. Relational is based on conceptual analysis, exploring relationships between concepts in a text.

Conceptual analysis

Traditionally, content analysis as a research method in sociology was most often considered from the point of view of conceptual analysis. In the latter, a concept is selected for study and the number of its occurrences in the recorded text. Because the terms can be implicit as well as explicit, it is important to clearly define the former before starting the counting process. To limit subjectivity in the definitions of concepts, specialized dictionaries are used.

Content analysis

As with most other research methods, conceptual analysis begins with the definition of research questions and the selection of a sample or samples. Once selected, the text must be encoded into managed content categories. The encoding process is basically selective reduction, which is the central idea of ​​content analysis. By breaking down the content of the materials into meaningful and relevant pieces of information, some characteristics of the message can be analyzed and interpreted.

Relational Analysis

As stated above, relational analysis builds on conceptual analysis, examining relationships between concepts in a text. AND,as with other types of research, the initial choice of what is being studied and/or coded often determines the scope of that particular research. For relational analysis, it is important to first decide what type of concept will be studied. Research was conducted both with one category and with as many as 500 categories of concepts. Obviously, too many categories can make your results unclear, and too few can lead to unreliable and potentially invalid conclusions. Therefore, it is important that coding procedures are based on the context and needs of your research.

Word analysis

There are many methods of relational analysis, and this flexibility makes it popular. Researchers may develop their own procedures according to the nature of their project. Once a procedure has been thoroughly tested, it can be applied and compared across populations over time. The process of relational analysis has reached a high degree of computer automation, but is still, like most forms of research, time-consuming. Perhaps the strongest claim that can be made is that it retains a high degree of statistical rigor without losing the richness of detail found in other qualitative methods.

Advantages of the technique

The method of content analysis in sociology has several advantages for researchers. In particular, content analysis:

  • looks directly at communication via texts or transcripts and therefore falls into the centralaspect of social interaction;
  • can provide both quantitative and qualitative operations;
  • can provide valuable historical/cultural information over time through text analysis;
  • allows proximity to text that can alternate between specific categories and relationships, and statistically analyzes the encoded form of the text;
  • can be used to interpret texts for purposes such as developing expert systems (because knowledge and rules can be encoded in terms of explicit statements about relationships between concepts);
  • is a non-intrusive interaction analysis tool;
  • provides insight into complex patterns of human thought and language use;
  • if well executed, is regarded as a relatively "accurate" research method.
Analysis of broadcasting 1 channel

Disadvantages of content analysis

This method has not only advantages, but also disadvantages, both theoretical and procedural. In particular, content analysis:

  • can be extremely labor intensive;
  • prone to increased risk of error, especially when relational analysis is used to achieve a higher level of interpretation;
  • often lacks a theoretical basis or tries too liberally to draw meaningful conclusions about the connections and impacts implied in the study;
  • is inherently reductive, especially when dealing with complex texts;
  • tends too often justconsist of word count;
  • it often ignores context;
  • it is difficult to automate or computerize.

An example of content analysis in sociology

Typically, researchers start by identifying questions they would like to answer by analyzing content. For example, they may be interested in how women are portrayed in advertisements. The researchers will then select a set of data from the ads – perhaps scripts for a series of television commercials – for analysis.

Gender advertising

Then they will study and count the use of certain words and images in the videos. To continue this example, researchers might study TV ads for stereotypical gender roles, as language may imply that women in ads are less knowledgeable than men, and for sexual objectification of either gender.

Functional analysis in sociology

Functional analysis is a methodology that is used to explain how a complex system works. The basic idea is that the system is seen as a computation of a function (or, more generally, to solve an information processing problem). Functional analysis suggests that such processing can be explained by decomposing this complex function into a set of simpler functions that are computed by an organized system of sub-processes.

Functional analysis is important to cognitive science because it offers a natural methodology for explaining howdata processing. For example, any "black box diagram" proposed as a model or theory by a cognitive psychologist is the result of an analytical stage of functional analysis. Any suggestion of what constitutes a cognitive architecture can be seen as a hypothesis about the nature of cognitive functions at the level at which these functions are enabled.

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