Analysis of Qualitative Data in Content Analysis

Content analysis applies to textual information in the form of words. An analyst can classify text into categories as described in chapter 1. The categories are treated like numerical data in subsequent statistical manipulations. The statistical analysis permits the analyst to draw conclusions about the information in the text. This is the traditional form of content analysis.

Content analysis, as defined in this paper, can be viewed as being one among a number of methods for analyzing textual data. Under the title of qualitative data analysis, Tesch (1990), describes many possibilities for analyzing textual data. A number of those alternatives classify text into categories but do not give numerical labels to the categories in preparation for statistical manipulation. (See for example, Mies and Huberman (1994) and Strauss and Corbin (1990).) Analysis in these other qualitative approaches typically involves graphic manipulation and display of text segments in the form of either codes or actual words rather than statistical manipulation. Content analysis is usually confined to statistical analysis.

We might want to address some of the evaluation questions with textual data. These questions are best answered with content analysis and other forms of qualitative analysis. To a degree, software programs such as AQUAD can be used in either situation (Tesch, 1992). AQUAD was designed for the style of qualitative analysis that retains the text segments intact. It basically offers the ability to cut and paste coded segments of computerized documents. Its ability to count codes also gives it some content analysis capability.

In designing an evaluation that will use qualitative data, consideration should be given to a variety of approaches, including but not limited to content analysis. As always, the methods the analyst chooses should be matched to the evaluation questions.

Source: GAO (2013), Content Analysis: A Methodology for Structuring and Analyzing Written Material: PEMD-10.3.1, BiblioGov.

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