Content Analysis

I found Sari Thomas's article in defence of content analysis very convincing. First, I should clarify that I was not (am still a little unclear) familiar with the intricacies of this form of research prior to reading the article. My initial assumption was that this approach was based on an analysis of an object itself. I relate this thought to the way one would dissect literature, say a poem or a play, and then extract meaning from the themes found within it. Clearly, this is does not come close to defining what takes place in a true content analysis, as Thomas outlines. This approach appears systematic, quantitative and fruitful. A study based on a series of related content over time (say a TV show as she uses an example) can reveal themes, trends and cultural meaning.

In particular, I appreciated the argument that artifactual analysis should not and does not replace research methods such as ethnography in its attempts to define human behaviour, but rather can supplement such studies by approaching the same questions from a different angle. If I understood such methods better, I would certainly consider such an approach in my own research proposal ... definitely something to keep in mind. Anyone else have thoughts on this?



Amy. said...

I also found the article very convincing, and agree that content analysis has some very pertinent uses when it comes to research. Again, in a similar manner that ethnography presents, content analysis is an excellent tool for reflecting upon how human behaviour is influenced by different cultural artefacts and 'external' forces - from physical objects to media, such as the examples that Thomas identified.

Reiterative content analyses, I would think, might also reveal some significant shifts or changes in how humans interact with various artefacts. As Thomas explicitly mentions, "When do supernatural themes, such as vampires and monsters, appear and virtually disappear from popular films?" Although this might seem like a trivial phenomena, it could reveal some very interesting trends in human attraction to the cinema, in conjunction with a study on the habits of film viewers, for example.

Just as I mentioned in my own blog post, I think content and artifactual analysis presents many great opportunities for scholarly discussion about a wide range of topics - so, yes, I agree! It is definitely an interesting method to consider and one that I might find very useful in my own research proposal, once I explore it further!

Stephanie Lauren said...

When I was reading Thomas' article this week, I was also struck by how useful content analysis seems to be as a research method. I was 100% in agreeance with Thomas when she said that the meaning of cultural artifacts is not static, but instead evolves over time (p. 686-687). I feel like content analysis is a really good method for reexamining specific objects and documents and trying to approach them from a different angle. Furthermore, it's also a great way to examine something that appears to initially be boring -- when in reality it's complex and gives you a greater understanding into a particular culture.

In fact, I found that when I read Thomas' article I was reminded of an article that most of us will be quite familiar with: Star's "The Ethnography of Infrastructure". While I know that Star approached the composition of her article through an ethnographic lens, I feel as if content analysis must have also been an inextricable aspect of her study's research methods.

In order to even begin to break-down something as complex as infrastructure, you need to perform an analysis of its codes and standards (which probably requires the use of content analysis and coding procedures). Also by looking at snapshots of the infrastructure from different points in time you can begin to gain an understanding of its cultural meaning and the social principles it embodies.

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