The Advantages and Disadvantages of Content Analysis

Content analysis can provide useful information and is a crucial tool for many industries. It is prone to user error and interpretation however. Computer software also lacks the ability to do anything beyond the basic programming and sometimes data can be lost in translation. Determining the advantages and disadvantages of content analysis before beginning research can help prevent some of these problems.

Getting Untainted Information

One of the advantages of using content research is that it is unobtrusive. Research can glean data from documents of an event rather than interviewing those who attended. The documents may give the complete record, whereas a participant may consciously or unconsciously leave out crucial information. This prevents bias from corrupting the data. In addition, the researcher can find answers to the questions they need rather than searching through irrelevant or inappropriate information.

Dealing with Documentation

Another advantage of using content research is that it is possible for researchers to use large files of data and systematically evaluate it. This can be done by one researcher or several, and enables them to pull out relevant information consistently. Once the data is found, it can also be corroborated by other researchers making the data reproducible. This is a requirement when performing any scientific research. In addition, it can be used to verify other evaluation methods.

The Human Factor and Errors

The advantages and disadvantages of content analysis are closely entwined. While the content is systematic, a sufficient amount of research time must be given to it and the criteria needs to be strictly applied. This requires resources and there must be precautions in place to prevent the data from being distorted. If there are problems with the researcherís judgment, the data could be compromised. This is particularly true when the goal is to gain a higher level of interpretation.

The Problems with the Data

Another disadvantage is that the data can be insensitive and does not differentiate between meanings. The results can be slanted or skewed if the words are misinterpreted. Without categorizing the methodology, the information can be meaningless. Also, while researchers try to eliminate coder bias, two different researchers might code the same data differently or have different interpretations of the material. Sometimes this is alleviated by having two researchers code the data and then comparing the results. However, this can be expensive and time consuming.

The advantages and disadvantages of content analysis are important to consider before beginning a study. It is generally an inexpensive research method and can be used to learn more about policies, target audiences, politics or financial support. In addition, it is even more powerful when added to other types of research. However, this methodology may not discern any underlying motives within the pattern and is limited by the availability of any material that is used.