Content Analysis for the Social Sciences and Humanities

Content Analysis for the Social Sciences and Humanities

Content Analysis for the Social Sciences and Humanities

Content Analysis for the Social Sciences and Humanities

Excerpt

This book is an introduction and guide to content analysis as an approach to documentary research. It was written for the investigator who is considering using content analysis, but it is not a "cookbook" which provides a step by step formula for every research question. A single book can neither anticipate every problem that may arise in the almost infinite variety of questions one might wish to answer from documentary data, nor could it provide ready solutions for them. Illustrations are intentionally drawn from a broad spectrum of research areas and disciplines, but emphasis will be placed upon general principles applicable to classes of research questions rather than upon the impossible task of developing research outlines for every specific question.

Several other caveats should be stated. Content analysis has proved to be a valuable research method in many areas of inquiry. It has also been used to produce shelves full of unimaginative studies which appear to have been motivated by little more than the ease with which they could be carried out. According to one critic, "In reviewing the work in this field, one is struck by the number of studies which have apparently been guided by a sheer fascination with counting" (Cartwright, 1953, p. 447). The fault lies not with the method but with the users. Content analysis is of little help to the investigator who begins with a trivial problem. Nor is it a panacea for all investigations; it is, rather, a tool which may be used badly or well, foolishly or thoughtfully, on problems ranging from trivial to important. Significant research ultimately depends upon substantive knowledge of one's field and creative imagination. Any guide to research methods, including this one, is a poor substitute for either of these indispensable qualities.

Second, this book should not be read as an advocate's brief for a single approach to social inquiry. Any blanket rejection of content analysis . . .

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