Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Using Content Analysis in the Textbook Selection Process

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

Using Content Analysis in the Textbook Selection Process

Article excerpt


Content analysis is a systematic approach to describing and understanding the meanings and potential effects of messages by gathering, categorizing, and analyzing message components (see Riffe et al., 1998, pp. 18-20, for a review of content analysis definitions). As a research technique content analysis casts a wide net and can be observed in a variety of fields including communications, psychology, sociology, medicine, political science, organizational behavior, and information technology, to name a few.

A provocative recent example of content analysis is Kathleen Hall Jamieson's Everything You Think You Know About Politics ... and Why You're Wrong (2000). This book measures the amount of media coverage devoted to recent political campaigns in print and broadcast media. It also reviews the idea of "media bias" by assessing the degree of favorability expressed by reporters towards various candidates and issues. The general intent of the analyses is to explore and explode some common misperceptions about the role of print and broadcast media in political contests and to provide insights into why some political campaigns succeed while others fail.

Other recent examples involving popular media include analyses of profanity in rap songs, violence episodes in movies such as The Matrix, sexual situations in movies and television programs, and overt as well as subliminal messages in advertising. Content analysis can also be useful in providing insights into the design and potential impact of web sites (Loughman & Fleck, 1999), annual reports (Fleck, et al., 1995), and computer system documentation (Fleck & Loughman, 1996).

In addition to its usefulness as a standalone analysis tool, content analysis also functions well as part of larger methodologies such as sociotechnical analysis, which attempts to integrate various organizational assessment tools from a range of disciplines. For example, in a recent study (Loughman et al., 1999), content analysis of communication behaviors was linked with system analysis measures to provide bank management with a robust source of information to help them decide how to resolve a customer attrition problem.

The present study uses content analysis to provide educators in information systems with advanced tools to help them decide which textbooks to choose based upon their assessments of various content criteria contained in the books. The process is illustrated using several well-known Java textbooks and occurs in two stages: (1) a description of traditional text evaluation procedures, and (2) the application of additional tools from content analysis.


The textbook selection process can be viewed as an application of the systems development life cycle. The first step in the process is to determine the course objectives and then to build the content from those objectives. Course objectives are influenced by market demands, course level, prerequisites, and other environmental variables. Many of these variables are outside the purview of the person or committee making the textbook selection and are not addressed in this study. Instead, our focus is on the tools that can be used to assist in the objective evaluation of available course materials.

After course objectives have been established, the second step is to search for textbooks that appear to match course content. Desk copies of the textbooks are ordered in the third step and textbook content is compared with course objectives. One way to compare textbooks with each other and with course objectives is to list both mandatory and desirable text features. Text content by chapter could also be used in this features/objectives list. The first column of Tables 1a and 1b lists some of the features of twelve Java textbooks. Users of Java will recognize the terms and may even think of additional criteria that should be included. …

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