John L. “Jack” Morris
Loyola University, New Orleans, LA
Textual analysis is sometimes called careful reading, and it is as important to a journalist as good listening. Textual analysis is a method that communication researchers use to describe, interpret, and evaluate the characteristics of a recorded message (Frey, Botan, Friedman, & Kreps, 1991). This type of qualitative research and analysis focuses on a particular text to determine its characteristics and place it in a category shared by other similar texts for comparison and contrast purposes. Qualitative textual analysis can lead to quantitative research methods such as content analysis (Krippendorff, 1980) or Q methodology (Brown, 1993; McKeown & Thomas, 1988), which can be used to analyze publications or opinions about texts.
For example, researchers might categorize the types of message strategies that politicians use in public campaign speeches as fear-appeals and reward-appeals by studying individual texts, and then conduct a quantitative study. This research project might study how the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times covered campaign speeches over the period of a year by focusing on the textual attributes of each paper's campaign coverage. Reporters who write the news stories also use some level of textual analysis to compare and contrast oral and written language. Reporters at the Washington Post use personal computers to search for key words in bills and legislation that indicate stakeholders—winners and losers—in the documents (see following examples).