Meaning and Uses of Content Analysis

Television has become a part of many homes. Some people cannot do without daily newspapers. Others take their radio along anywhere they go. Yet others are always on the Internet courtesy of new media technologies that have made access to even the mass media available on the go.

What is in the media? The term media refers to components of the mass media communications industry, such as print media, publishing, the news media, photography, cinema, broadcasting (radio and television), digital media, and advertising.

Content analysis is a research method used to identify patterns in recorded communication. To conduct content analysis, you systematically collect data from a set of texts, which can be written, oral, or visual: Books, newspapers and magazines. Speeches and interviews. Web content and social media posts

Content analysis is also a research design used in communication and media studies alone.  It is a  study of the corpus or contents of newspapers, radio and television programmes, video/CD/VCD/DVD etc.

In fact, one of the uses of content analysis is that content analysis is used to study the contents of all media products, traditional and new media. Its aim is to discern patterns in the contents and make statements about them.

Content analysis as any systematic procedure devised to examine the content of recorded information. It is also a method of studying and analyzing communication in a systematic, objective and quantitative manner for the purpose of measuring variables. The features of content analysis explain that:

  1. Content analysis is systematic. The content to be analysed is selected according  to  explicit and consistent rules and the evaluation process is systematic.
  2. Content analysis is objective. The researcher’s personal idiosyncrasies and biases should not enter into the findings.
  3. Content analysis is quantitative. The description of the content involves stating numerical values (numbers, percentages,).

The Uses of Content Analysis

1.  Content analysis is used for describing communication content. This has to do with exploring and stating the characteristics of a given body of contents; stating what exists in them.

For example, if one sets out to study the portrayal of women in soft-sell magazines, that is a content analysis, and the purpose is to simply detect what exists inthe contents.

2.  It is used for testing hypotheses of message characteristics. This has to do with examining messages from sources to see if there are  elements of source characteristics manifest in  the content.

For example, a researcher may have the hypothesis: “Female reporters use female sources more than male reporters do.” So, he compares news reports written by female reporters with those written by male reporters. At the end, the researcher may be able to confirm or refute the hypothesis.

3.  It is used for comparing media content to “the real world.” A content analyst  may  examine how the media  portray certain issues and compare the portrayal to what the  issues are in real life.

For instance, a researcher who observed the portrayal of women in agriculture in newspaper and discovered that they are portrayed as playing a minority role in agriculture then compared it with real life statistics which show that women occupy leading roles in agriculture. This shows that the selected newspaper is unreflective of reality.

4.  Content analysis is used to establish what subject attracts the predominant attention of the media over a particular period of time (agenda setting function of the media).

This serves as a foundation for other research to examine the impact of media agenda on  the  audience.

5.  Content analysis can also used to make inferences about source characteristics. When we study communication contents, we can infer source characteristics from the contents.

For example, if the coverage a particular newspaper consistently gives to a political aspirant   is always positive, even when coverage of other media of the same person is negative, it says something about the message source.


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