Content Analysis in Research

Content Analysis

Content analysis is a method for summarizing any form of content by counting various aspects of the content. This enables a more objective evaluation than comparing content based on the impressions of a user.

Content analysis is a research technique for making replicable and valid inferences from texts (or other meaningful matter) to the contexts of their use.


Berelson (1952) defined content analysis as “a research technique for the objective, systematic and quantitative description of the manifest content of the communication.” Content Analysis

Stone, Dunphy, Smith, and Ogilvie (1966) define content analysis as “a research technique for making inferences by systematically and objectively identifying specified characteristics within a text.”

Krippendorff (1969) distinguished “inferences about the states or properties of the sources of the analyzed texts.”

Weber (1990) defines “Content analysis is a research method that uses a set of procedures to make valid inferences from the text.”

Merten (1991) writes “content analysis is a method for inquiring into social reality, which consists of inferring features of a nonmanifest context from features of the manifest text.”

Shapiro and Markoff s (1997) defines “any systematic reduction…of text (or other symbols) to a standard set of statistically manipulable symbols representing the presence, the intensity, or the frequency of some characteristics relevant to social science.”

Content analysis is a research tool used to determine the presence of certain words or concepts within texts or sets of texts. Researchers quantify and analyze the presence, meanings, and relationships of such words and concepts, then make inferences about the messages within the texts, the writer(s), the audience, and even the culture and time of which these are a part. Texts can be defined broadly as books, book chapters, essays, interviews, discussions, newspaper headlines and articles, historical documents, speeches, conversations, advertising, theater, informal conversation, or really any occurrence of communicative language. To conduct a content analysis on any such text, the text is coded or broken down, into manageable categories on a variety of levels-word, word sense, phrase, sentence, or theme and then examined using content analysis methods.

Historically, content analysis is a time-consuming process. The analysis is done manually, or slow mainframe computers are used to analyze punch cards containing data punched in by human coders. Single studies could employ thousands of these cards. Human error and time constraints made this method impractical for large texts. However, despite its impracticality, content analysis is already an often utilized research method by the 1940s. Although initially limited to studies that examined texts for the frequency of the occurrence of identified terms (word counts), by the mid-1950’s researchers are already starting to consider the need for more sophisticated methods of analysis, focusing on concepts rather than simply words, and on semantic relationships rather than just presence. While both traditions still continue today, content analysis now is also utilized to explore mental models and their linguistic, affective, cognitive, social, cultural and historical significance.

Content analysis, though it often analyses written words, is a quantitative method. The results of the content analysis are numbers and percentages. The content that is analyzed can be in any form, to begin with, but is often converted into written words before it is analyzed. The original source can be printed publications, broadcast programs, other recordings, the internet, or live situations. All this content is something that people have created.

Original Reference Article:

  • Ajay, M. S. (2011). Citation and content analysis of Indian Bar Review.

Md. Ashikuzzaman

Work at North South University Library, Bangladesh.

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