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Geography 237a Research Methods. Unobtrusive Research (Babbie Chapter 11). Content Analysis Landscape Interpretation Advantages/Disadvantages Secondary Data Analysis Advantages/Disadvantages. Content Analysis. study of human communication “content” of communications

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unobtrusive research babbie chapter 11

Geography 237aResearch Methods

Unobtrusive Research(Babbie Chapter 11)
  • Content Analysis
  • Landscape Interpretation
  • Advantages/Disadvantages
  • Secondary Data Analysis
  • Advantages/Disadvantages

Geog 237a

content analysis
Content Analysis
  • study of human communication
  • “content” of communications
  • reduce communication data to something manageable
  • e.g., newspaper articles, policy documents, legislation/guidelines, books, webpages, speeches

Geog 237a

content analysis example
Content AnalysisExample
  • Wells (1891)
  • Black men lynched because of raping white women?
  • newspaper articles 728 lynchings
  • only 1/3 cases accused of rape
  • more often “insolence” cited

Geog 237a

content analysis example4
Content AnalysisExample
  • Are men’s product manufacturers more likely to advertise during violent t.v. programs?
  • what is the unit of analysis?
  • what is the unit of observation?
  • how analyze statistically?

Geog 237a

content analysis5
Content Analysis


  • sampling frames have more than most researchers can handle
  • E.g., determine amount of “science” in media coverage of environmental issues.

Unit of analysis

  • (re: conclusions/inferences)
  • usually groups
  • e.g., Canadian editors

Geog 237a

content analysis6
Content Analysis

Unit of observation

  • (actually observe, analyze)
  • depends on research Q
  • depends on available data

Time period

  • many available!
  • theoretically informed

Representative Case

  • issue to represent “environmental coverage”
  • e.g., global climate change

Geog 237a

content analysis exercise
Content AnalysisExercise

Research Question:

  • Which province has the most comprehensive environmental protection legislation?
  • (devise a content analysis study)

What is the:

  • Unit of analysis?
  • Unit of observation?
  • Time period?

Geog 237a

content analysis coding units of observation
Content AnalysisCoding Units of Observation


  • making raw data more manageable
  • e.g., representing open-ended responses by theme codes

manifest content

  • surface content
  • e.g., specific words/phrases
  • e.g., “scientist”, “professor”, “student”, “research”
  • count occurrences
  • high reliability
  • low validity

Geog 237a

content analysis coding units of observation9
Content AnalysisCoding Units of Observation

latent content

  • underlying meaning, requires intensive reading
  • e.g., themes
  • e.g., passages with direct reference to a research report/published journal article
  • e.g., passages representing: “expert opinion”; “scientific facts”
  • count occurrences
  • high validity
  • low reliability

Geog 237a

content analysis latent coding example
Content AnalysisLatent Coding Example

Fidel Castro,

Communist leader

of Cuba

Geog 237a

content analysis example11
Content AnalysisExample
  • The political drift of Disney is blatant in these few comics where he is impelled to reveal his intentions openly. It is also inescapable in the bulk of them, where he uses animal symbolism, infantilism, and “noble savagery” to cover over the network of interests arising from a concrete and historically determined system: U.S. imperialism.

Source: Dorfman, A. and Mattelart, A. (1971) How To Read Donald Duck Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic

Geog 237a

landscape interpretation
Landscape Interpretation
  • study of natural and, particularly, built, environments – “cultural landscapes”
  • crudely: “content analysis of the landscape”
  • context (time and space) dependant
  • e.g., “city as text”
  • Sauer, Duncan, Ley, Meinig

Geog 237a

landscape interpretation14
Landscape Interpretation

findings might talk about:

  • intimidation
  • exclusion
  • class conflict
  • dehumanizing landscapes

Geog 237a

landscape interpretation15
Landscape Interpretation

Compare and contrast these.

e.g., What goes on in these buildings?

Geog 237a

content analysis landscape interpretation advantages disadvantages
Content Analysis/Landscape Interpretation:Advantages/Disadvantages


  • Unobtrusiveness – no interaction
  • Reach – data worldwide, time periods
  • Physical safety
  • Ease and economy
  • Reliability
  • Generates both qualitative and quantitative data


  • Scope – limited by media
  • Relevance – engage actors?
  • Over reliance on face validity?

Geog 237a

secondary data analysis
Secondary Data Analysis
  • analysis of pre-existing data
  • data collected for general use
  • researcher has little influence over the form of the data (e.g., how a question gets asked in the survey to collect)
  • not to be confused with secondary analysis – analysis of others’ analysis to e.g., check accuracy

Geog 237a

secondary data analysis example
Secondary Data AnalysisExample
  • Why do people commit suicide?
  • Durkheim – (social) environmental influences
  • temperature – summer highest – S Europe vs mid latitudes (latter highest)
  • men; age 35 – highest rates
  • times of social turmoil
  • Protestant vs Catholics
  • religion and turmoil combined into concept of anomie

Geog 237a

secondary data analysis advantages disadvantages
Secondary Data Analysis:Advantages/Disadvantages


  • Unobtrusiveness – no interaction
  • Scale/Reach – data worldwide
  • Physical safety
  • Ease and economy


  • ecological fallacy
  • validity – operational definition has to suit existing data
  • reliability – collected consistently? – e.g., NPRI, facilities in S hemisphere!

Geog 237a