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Content analysis

In this workbench, the term content analysis is used as in communication science, for the technique(s) used to investigate the communicative aspects of one or more textual expressions on the basis of objective and systematic analysis.

Content analysis is a research tool used to determine the presence of certain words or concepts within texts or sets of texts. Researchers quantify and analyse the presence, meanings and relationships of such words and concepts, then make inferences about the messages within the texts, the writer (s), the audience, and even the culture and time of which these are a part. Texts can be defined broadly as books, book chapters, essays, interviews, discussions, newspaper headlines and articles, historical documents, speeches, conversations, advertising, theatre, informal conversation, or really any occurrence of communicative language. (...) To conduct a content analysis on any such text, the text is coded, or broken down, into manageable categories on a variety of levels - word, word sense, phrase, sentence, or theme - and then examined using one of the basic methods of content analysis: conceptual analysis or relational analysis.
Source: Writing guide: An introduction to content analysis, Colorado State University; consulted on 5-4-2017).


Which tools for encoding and analysing can be used to support contents analysis depends on the chosen research method. For qualitative content analysis, our faculty has the program Atlas.ti.

The Department of Communication Science at VU Amsterdam has developed AmCAT for automatic content analysis and relational content analysis using the NET method. The central element of AmCAT is a database that contains all documents that need to be analysed (such as newspaper articles and contributions to web forums) and the annotations and analyses that are associated with these documents. Through a web interface, researchers can explore the data, quickly perform automatic analyses, add documents for manual annotation and view and analyse the results. For more information about AmCat, see the book Inhoudsanalayse met AmCAT (Van Atteveldt, Ruigrok, Takens and Jacobi, 2014).

Some forms of content analysis are closely related to corpus analysis, a research strategy that is often used in linguistic research. In that case, you can make use of the software used for formal annotation and basic text analysis in that field.