Content Analysis and Communication through the Written Language

Content analysis is a social science methodology that is based on the understanding of human communication including writing, painting and context. This includes understanding the meaning of text, the phrases used, the key terms, the authenticity and the authorship. It is a quantitative, scientific method that can look at the objectivity, intersubjectivity, the validity, the replicability and more of a specific document.

The History of This Type of Methodology

Content analysis began in 1931 when Alfred R. Lindesmith created a methodology that was designed to refute existing hypothesis. By the 1960s it was frequently referred to as “Grounded Theory”. The purpose of this methodology was to be able to determine the frequency of keywords in order to determine the most important structures of the writing. Today it is frequently used in media relations to determine the success of a specific campaign. It is also used to predict future trends as well.

The Different Uses of this Methodology Today

Those who specialize in content analysis are able to determine the antecedents of an article by researching the encoding process in order to answer any questions that may exist. This is frequently used in politics and in military intelligence. It is also often used in legal proceedings. This methodology may also help to help in marketing and public relations to aim a message to a particular audience or to define the pattern of communication. In addition, it can make a paper more readable, help with the information flow or dictate the response to another query.

The Criteria Used in this Type of Methodology

There are six questions that must be asked when using content analysis according to expert, Dr. Klaus Krippendorff. This includes:

1. What data is being analyzed?
2. How is it defined?
3. Which population is the work for?
4. Is the context relative?
5. What are the boundaries?
6. Who is the target market?

This may be dictionary based or quantitative based focusing on the frequency of certain words and how they are distributed throughout the text or qualitative based focusing on the inherent implications of the text.

The Disadvantages of this Type of Methodology

While content analysis has many advantages when studying communications, it also has some disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that it is very time consuming and is subject to error. This is particularly true when it is dependent on interpretation of the text or when the text is complex. There is also no theoretical base in order to create meaningful inferences and relationships between the text. In addition, this methodology can be extremely difficult to automate or computerize.

This scientific study of the written language helps users to understand the sociology, political science, psychology and cognitive science behind the written word. It can also help to determine ethnographic, gender or age issues and the cultural significance of a particular writing style. In the future it will be used to help develop artificial intelligence by sociolinguistic scientists and psycholinguistic scientists as well.