Some Advantages of Content Analysis

1. It Can Be Unobtrusive

One problem with surveys and some experimental methods is that evaluators and their informants can interact during data collection in ways other than how they would “naturally” react. For example, a content analysis of the hearing transcripts might be more useful than interviews with federal officials about what took place during public hearings on proposed environmental regulations. The officials might leave out important points, unconsciously or purposely, in order to protect themselves, but the transcripts provide the complete record. Thus, bias can be reduced dining data collection. Similarly, the evaluator can eliminate from analysis survey questions that might be inappropriate because they invaded a respondent’s privacy.

2. It Can Deal With Large Volumes of Material

Content analysis has explicit procedures and quality control checks that make it possible for only a few or a great number of evaluators to analyze large volumes of textual data. Furthermore, the explicit procedures and quality control checks allow two or more groups of analysts to work on the same kind of data in different geographic locations, and computer software may be used to perform many of the required steps. (See appendix II.)

3. It Is Systematic

Content analysis can help evaluators learn more about the issues and programs they examine because it is systematic. It has structured forms that allow evaluators to extract relevant information more consistently than if they were reading the same documents only casually.

4. It Can Corroborate Other Evaluation Methods

When the findings from content analysis are not the main evidence in an evaluation, they can still be used to help corroborate other findings, such as responses from closed-ended surveys or from economic measures. For example, Webb and colleagues have described how investigators can use “multiple operations” to increase confidence in their findings, although we do not discuss them in this paper. (Webb et al., 1981)

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

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