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Research Methods in Politics 18 Content Analysis Teaching and Learning Objectives to consider alternative definitions of ‘content analysis’ to compare qualitative and quantitative content analysis to consider the sub-types of content analysis

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research methods in politics 18

Research Methods in Politics18

Content Analysis

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18

teaching and learning objectives
Teaching and Learning Objectives
  • to consider alternative definitions of ‘content analysis’
  • to compare qualitative and quantitative content analysis
  • to consider the sub-types of content analysis
  • to learn how to carry out content analysis using latest available software.

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18

content analysis
Content Analysis
  • textual analysis
  • text mining
  • longstanding method
  • Cold War application, CIA, GCHQ
  • text, video, phone cons, e-mails
  • many advantages – plenty of it
  • disadvantages
  • new technology

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18

content analysis4
Content Analysis
  • qualitative
    • highly interpretative
    • detecting bias
    • ‘Democracy’
  • quantitative

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18




human rights

peace and prosperity

peace and development


rule of law

respect for others

liberty rather than freedom






hard work







freedom with dignity


state sovereignty

rule of law under UN

equal dignity of all cultures

respect for diversity


BUSH fear



from censorship


to choose

raise families





opposite of communismresponsibilityto defend

vigilance, security

military action




can’t be neutral


institutions to guarantee human rights

popular participation

shared trade

sustainable development


full state sovereignty

social and material security

minority rights


freedom and democracy

defence of human rights

Peace and development

freedom from totalitarianism

route from poverty


market economies

decent standard of living



myth of partnership (NATO)


Content Analysis of Post 9/11

on ‘Democracy’

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18

quantitative content analysis
Quantitative Content Analysis
  • Zipf’s Law power-law function Pi ~ 1/ia
  • Key words, e.g. George W Bush, Inaugural 2005

Key Word Frequency

          • freedom 27
          • liberty 15
          • hope 8
          • history 7
          • tyranny 5
          • God 4

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18

structural content analysis
Structural Content Analysis
  • space (or time) devoted to the text
  • volume: headline type and font size
  • position or prominence of the text
  • use of accompanying illustrations or photographs
  • indications of direction or bias (for example, by stereotyping)
  • persistence over time (for example, the Daily Mail’s campaign over ‘asylum seekers’ and the Daily Express’ pre-occupation with Princess Diana)

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18


Newspaper Circ (000s) Headline

The Times 635 NHS faces treatment rationing

The Guardian 365 11 government ministers fighting NHS cuts

Daily Telegraph 899 Brown’s manifesto for Britishness

The Independent 238 Shoot the messenger: Blair blames press for anti-war mood

Daily Express 773 Big new tax on house owners

Daily Mail 2,311 Now a school bans crucifix

The Mirror 1,540 Big brother shot my dad dead

The Sun 3,026 Shoot him, mum’s anger at beast who raped girl, 3

The Star 750 Big Bro on skids

TV news (audience for post-watershed news, 000s)

BBC News c 5,000 Reid moves to quell offender row

ITN news c 3,000 Boys killed by Tube train

Sky News c 2,000 Men killed in Tube tragedy

National Newspapers, circulation and headlines, 13.01.2006

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18

Substantive Content AnalysisBritish parties’ ideological movement on a left-right scale 1945-97 (Budge, 1999: 5, Fig 11.1)

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18

content analysis software
Content Analysis Software
  • AutoMap, CatPac, General Inquirer, Hamlet II, Leximancer, TACT, Textpack, Texstat, VBPro, Wordsmith, Winmax
  • The core functions include:
    • calculating word frequencies
    • excluding stopwords (‘the’, ‘and’, ‘in’ etc.) automatically
    • adopting lemmitisation to combine words with the same stem, e.g., go, going, gone,
    • using synonyms to categorise as one word all others having the same meaning, e.g., gone, quit, departed,etc
    • recording concordance by showing each word in its context (termed KWIC: key words in context)
    • using cluster analysis to group together words used in similar contexts
    • using co-word citation to identify the concurrence of key words. This is used by the US government’s Echelon Project to scan emails for terrorist activity. So emailers using a combination of, say, ‘bomb’ and ‘Islam’ are likely to automatically attract the attention of the security services.

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18

hamlet ii
Hamlet II
  • European design for Politics content analysis
  • Hamlet offers a number of analytical procedures including:
    • Joint Frequency Analysis
    • Jaccard coefficient
    • simple cluster analysis
    • multi-dimensional scaling
    • Procustean Individual Difference Scaling (PINDIS);
    • KWIC (key words in context)
    • Wordlist
    • Compare (to compare two or more texts)
    • Profile (which displays the distribution of words and sentence lengths)

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18


HAMLET - Computer-assisted TextAnalysis - 17/01/2007 17:32:57


The text is read from the file: State of the Union Address 2005.txt

Counting collocations within a span of 50 words -

WARNING : No collocates for "freedom"

WARNING: some characters were not recognised when reading this file!


There are 17 main entries in the search list.

No synonyms / related items are recognised :

CATEGORY/WORD COUNTS ....................................


Applause 67 36.61 1.30 67

better world 6 3.28 0.12 6

budget 3 1.64 0.06 3

democracy 8 4.37 0.15 8

economy 11 6.01 0.21 11

free* 27 14.75 0.52 27

God 1 0.55 0.02 1

history 5 2.73 0.10 5

hope 3 1.64 0.06 3

justice 4 2.19 0.08 4

liberty 7 3.83 0.14 7

sacrifice 1 0.55 0.02 1

society 5 2.73 0.10 5

tax 6 3.28 0.12 6

terror* 27 14.75 0.52 27

tyranny 2 1.09 0.04 2

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18



Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18

content analysis pros and cons
the ready availability of texts

the scope for comparative analysis

easy-to-use (with practice) analytical software

good tabulations of results

eye-catching illustrations

concurrence of key words does not necessarily indicate causal links

the meanings of key words change over time and can be deliberately changed by political parties who exploit ‘feel good’ or ‘feel bad’ words to make their policies more attractive (e.g., ‘community’, ‘homeland’)

overall, the analysis is not really conclusive enough to provide sufficiently reliable evidence to confirm your research hypothesis

Content Analysis: Pros and Cons

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18

questions for discussion or assignments
Questions for Discussion or Assignments
  • Where and when should content analysis best be used?
  • Compare and contrast two or more of the available software packages
  • Working in teams, complete a structural content analysis of last week’s national TV and print news media accounts of national and international news from Monday to Sunday. What inferences and conclusions can you draw?
  • Complete a content analysis of all President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Addresses. Compare the analyses. What are your main conclusions? What are their limitations? Select two quality newspapers. Using CD-ROMs or Internet sources, evaluate their (emergent) bias for or against the Republican and Loyalist movements in N Ireland between the Good Friday Agreement (1998) and the St Andrews Agreement (2006). What conclusions can you draw? What reasons can you suggest for any changes of support?

Research Methods in Politics Chapter 18