Originally, content analysis developed as a quantitative method of analysis. This method emerged in the areas of sociology and mass communication as a way to systematically and 'objectively' analyze media content. This version of content analysis used standardized measurements to code, characterize and compare 'texts.'
Typical texts might be newspaper articles, radio and television transcripts, and the verbal and visual content of television programming. See for example: Berelson (1952) and Krippendorff (1980).
More recently, content analysis has emerged as a qualitative method. As Graneheim & Lundman (2003) explain, qualitative content analytical approaches focus on analyzing both the explicit or manifest content of a text as well as interpretations of the 'latent content' of texts -- that which can be interpreted or interpolated from the text, but is not explicitly stated in it.
In healthcare research, texts appropriate for content analysis are not limited to messages communicated to the masess via newspapers, magazines, radio, television and the internet. Text such as grant proposals, published manuscripts, minutes from meetings, transcripts of conversations (e.g. medical encounters, interviews, focus groups) can all be subject to content analysis.
Content analysis is strongly focused on data coding. One important limitation of this approach is its inability to portray a rich understanding of the context within which particular meanings emerge from texts.
Berelson, B. (1952). Content Analysis in Communication Research. Glencoe, IL. The Free Press.
Graneheim, UH. & Lundman, B. (2004). "Qualitative content analysis in nursing research: Concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness." Nurse Education Today, 24, pp. 105-112.
Krippendorff, K. (1980). Content Analysis. An Introduction to its Methodology. The Sage Commtext Series. London: Sage Publications.
Manning, PK. & Cullum-Swan, B. (1994). "Narrative, context and semiotic analysis." In In NK Denzin & YS Lincoln (eds.) Handbook of Qualitative Research. pp. 463-477. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.
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