Kinds of Data Required for Content Analysis

In the early stages of an assignment, evaluators choose variables of interest. For the descriptive Stars and Stripes assignment, for example, important variables included the frequency of stories on selected issues, such as the Iran-contra affair and the presidential campaign; the percentage of stories from other sources, such as staff reporters, AP, UPI, and other wire services; and the percentage of stories that conveyed a negative DOD image. (GAO, 1988) Obviously, if documents are to be useful, they must promise to yield information on the variables of interest.

For a normative evaluation, the variables are often similar to those for a descriptive evaluation, because the only difference is the addition of a criterion in the normative evaluation. In a program impact evaluation, the kinds of data that are required include outcome variables and contextual variables that may be necessary to rule out rival explanations for the outcomes. (GAO, 1991c)

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

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