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Chapter 10

Sociology 2206A/B Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Content Analysis, Operational Definition

Course Code
SOC 2206A/B
William Marshall

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Chapter 10: Nonreactive Quantitative Research and Secondary Analysis
Experiments are survey research are both reactive the people being studied are aware of that
they’re being studied
Nonreactive measures in which people being studied are unaware that they are in a study
Nonreactive techniques are largely based on positivist principles but are also used by interpretive
and critical researchers
Nonreactive Measurement
The Logic of Nonreactive Research
Begins when a researcher notices something that indicates a variable of interest
Unobtrusive Measures emphasizes that the people being studied are not aware of it because
the measures do not intrude
The people being studied leave evidence of their social behaviour or actions naturally
Varieties of Nonreactive Observation
Many different varieties
Some examples Physical traces (erosion), Archives (running records), observation (external
appearance, time duration)
Recording and Documentation
Creating nonreactive measures follows the logic of quantitative measurement
oA researcher first conceptualizes a construct then links the construct to nonreactive
empirical evidence, which is its measure
oThe operational definition of the variable includes how the researcher systematically
notes and records observations
The researcher needs to rule out reasons for the observation other than the construct of interest
Quantitative Content Analysis
What is Content Analysis?
A technique for gathering and analyzing the content of text
Content refers to words, meanings, pictures, symbols, ideas, themes or any message that can
be communicated
Text a general name for symbolic meaning within a communication medium (not restricted to
written text)
oe.g. Books, newspapers, magazines, ads, speeches, official documents, films, music lyric,
clothing, etc.
The researcher uses objective and systematic counting and recording procedures to produce a
quantitative description of the symbolic content in a text

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Content analysis lets a researcher reveal the content (messages, meanings) in a source of
communication (book, movie)
oIt lets them probe into and discover content in a different way from the ordinary way of
reading a book or watching a movie
A researcher can compare content across many texts and analyze it with quantitative techniques
(charts, tables)
oThey can reveal aspects of the text’s content that are difficult to see
Content analysis involves random sampling, precise measurement and operation definitions for
abstract constructs
Coding the process of converting raw information or data into another form for analysis
oTurns aspects of content that represent variables into numbers
oAfter a content analysis researcher gathers the data, they analyze them with statistics in
the same way that an experimenter or survey researcher would
Topics Appropriate for Quantitative Content Analysis
Generalizations that researchers make on the basis of content analysis are limited to the cultural
communication itself
oContent analysis cannot determine the truthfulness of an assertion
It reveals the content in text but cannot interpret the content’s significance
Content Analysis if useful for 3 types of research problems
o1. It is helpful for problems involving a large volume of text
o2. It s helpful when a topic must be studied at a distance
e.g. Historical documents, the writings of someone who has died, etc.
o3. It can reveal messages in a text that are difficult to see with casual observation
Measurement and Coding
General Issues
oCoding System a set of instructions or rules used in content analysis to explain how to
systematically convert the symbolic content from text into quantitative data
A researcher tailors it to the specific type of text or communication medium being
Also depends on the researcher’s unit of analysis
oThe unit of analysis can vary a great deal in content analysis
What is Measured?
oStructured Observation a method of watching what is happening in a social setting
that is highly organized and that follows systematic rules for observation and
oCategories should be mutually exclusive and exhaustive
oWritten rules make replication possible and improve reliability
Coding systems identify 4 characteristics of text content
o1. Frequency counting whether or not something occurs and if it occurs, how often
o2. Direction noting the direction of messages in the content along some continuum
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