The Uses of Content Analysis

Here are several ways in which GAO evaluators have successfully used content analysis techniques.

  1. In Stars and Stripes: Inherent Conflicts Lead to Allegations of Military Censorship (GAO, 1988), GAO evaluators used content analysis to help assess issues of censorship, news management, and other influences on various editions of the military newspaper. Details of technique and substance from this report are used as examples throughout this transfer paper.
  2. In Student Loans: Direct Loans Could Save Billions in First 5 Years With Proper Implementation (GAO, 1992c), GAO evaluators examined transcripts of focus groups discussing the difficulty of implementing a student loan program. The participants’ views on whether the Department of Education could administer a direct loan program were mixed, but the evaluators were able, through content analysis, to highlight the dominant views and the reasons for them.
  3. Federal Employment: How Federal Employees View the Government As a Place to Work (GAO, 1992a) reported that while the majority of the survey respondents looked favorably on working for the government, many did not. The evaluators used content analysis to assess the respondent’s insightful, written comments to open-ended questions. An appendix in the report is devoted to the analysis of these comments.
  4. Another excellent example of the use of content analysis appears in Women in the Military: Deployment in the Persian Gulf War (GAO, 1993c). For this study, the evaluators gave a primarily positive assessment of women’s performance, using content analysis to determine that while men and women endured similarly harsh encampment facilities and conditions, both men and women considered health and hygiene problems inconsequential and their cohesion in mixed-gender units effective.
  5. Among other fine examples of the use of content analyis is Veterans’ Health Care: Veterans’. Perceptions of VA Services and VA’s Role in Health Care Reform (GAO, 1994a). The report’s scope and methodology section details the analysis and summary of veterans’ views that changing the VA system could, among other things, diminish or eliminate their benefits as well as harm them both emotionally and in terms of their specialized health care needs.

Other uses of content analysis in GAO reports include an analysis of transcripts of focus groups on people’s ability to participate in food assistance programs (GAO, 1990), an analysis of descriptive text on the maintenance of aging aircraft (GAO, 1993a), and an analysis of open-ended discussions with Amerasian immigrants on their experiences in Vietnam, the Philippines, and the United States (GAO, 1994b).

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

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