Content Analysis (A method in Social Science Research)

Content Analysis (A method in Social Science Research)

Content Analysis is described as the scientific study of content of communication. It is the study of the content with reference to the meanings, contexts and intentions
contained in messages. The term Content Analysis is 75 years old, and Webster’s
Dictionary of English language listed it since 1961.
In 1952, Bernard Berelson published Content analysis in Communication Research, which heralded recognition for the technique as a versatile tool for social science and media researchers. Some scholars adopted it for historical and political research as well (Holsti, 1968). However, the method achieved greater popularity among social science scholars as well as a method of communication research (Wimmer and Dominick, 1994:163). The development of content analysis as a full-fledged scientific method took place during World War II when the U.S. government sponsored a project under the directorship of Harold Lasswell to evaluate enemy propaganda. The resources made available for research and the methodological advances made in the context of the problems studied under the project contributed significantly to the emergence of the methodology in content analysis. One of the outcomes of the project, the book entitled Language of Politics published in 1940s (Lasswell et. al. 1965), still remains a classic in the field of content analysis. Later on, the method spread to other disciplines (Woodrum, 1984).

Like any other research method, content analysis conforms to three basic
principles of scientific method. They are:

1. Objectivity: Which means that the analysis is pursued on the basis of explicit rules, which enable different researchers to obtain the same results       from the same documents or messages.
2. Systematic: The inclusion or exclusion of content is done according to some consistently applied rules where by the possibility of including only   materials which support the researcher’s ideas – is eliminated.
3. Generalizability: The results obtained by the researcher can be applied to other similar situations.

Uses of Content Analysis
Now, an attempt is made in this section, using some studies as examples, to explain about the applications of content analysis. Though scholars from various disciplines such as social sciences, communications, psychology, political science, history, and language studies use content analysis, it is most widely used in social science and mass communication research. It has been used broadly to understand a wide range of themes such as social change, cultural symbols, changing trends in the theoretical content of different disciplines, verification of authorship, changes in the mass media content, nature of news coverage of social issues or social problems such as atrocities against women, dowry harassment, social movements, ascertaining trends in propaganda, election issues as reflected in the mass media content, and so on.

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