SOC 4133: Content Analysis Paper
Due: Monday, November 23rd
For this assignment, worth 10% of your course grade, you will carry out your own
content analysis. Remember, you are conducting social scientific research, meaning that
your methods and research process should be logical, systematic, documented, and
unbiased. The unit of observation that you choose is flexible; you may analyze written
(such as a magazine, newspaper, book, social media, or a website), visual (such as a
television program, product advertisements, film, or music video), or auditory content
(such as sports/talk radio or song lyrics). Your sample size should be large enough to
report initial findings, but you are not expected to compile a massive dataset for this
activity. Specific examples are provided on the next page. Please come speak with me or
Erin if you have any questions about your topic or proposed methodology.
After completing your content analysis, you will write a paper (about 4 pages in length)
that describes your research. Please use standard document formatting in your paper
(double-spaced, 1 inch margins, 11 or 12 point font). Appropriate use of spelling and
grammar is important. You must attach your completed code sheet to your paper.
Your paper should include the following components:
1. State your research question and describe your methods (about 1.5 pages). At
the least, be sure to address the following questions:
?? What is your research question and hypothesis? Why did you expect your
independent and dependent variables to be associated?
?? What document(s) or artifact(s) did you analyze (i.e., unit of observation)?
Who composed it? When and why it was written/created?
?? How did you gather your sample?
?? Describe your coding process. How do you measure your key concepts?
Did you conduct a quantitative or qualitative analysis (or both)?
?? What steps, if any, did you take to ensure the accuracy of your data?
2. Describe your findings (less than 1 page). Did any interesting patterns or
anomalies emerge? Did your findings support or challenge your initial
hypotheses? Please keep in mind that I am not concerned about how interesting
your findings are, but I care a lot about whether you understand and can execute
content analysis. Please include the following:
?? a table or graph summarizing your findings
?? your completed code sheet (including data)
3. Write a discussion and conclusion (about 2 pages). Reflect on your experience
conducting a content analysis. What was frustrating, interesting, appealing, etc.?
If you were to expand or completely redo this project, what would you do
differently the second time around to better answer your research question? How
has the project changed your ideas about content analysis and/or about your area
of study, if at all?
Suggested Sample Size for Various Units of Observation
The examples below should help you get a sense of the sample size that is expected.
However, your sample size will vary depending on the nature of your research question
and your approach (i.e., are you coding every single word in the advertisement or are you
timing the length of the commercial?). Please make sure that Erin or I approve your
project before writing your paper.
?? analyze 10+ advertisements for a specific product (for example, beer, cell phone
providers, or prescription drugs). Or, you could observe all commercials during 1-
2 hours of programming.
?? watch 2-4 regulation-length basketball games, more or less depending on what
you’re coding for. For example, if you are interested in fan responses to the “kiss
cam,” then it is more appropriate to watch more games since you could
foreseeably fast forward through most of the coverage. If you are doing a detailed
analysis of sports commentary, camera angles, etc., then 1-2 games is more
?? analyze lyrics from 10+ songs on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
?? read 10+ crime stories on the O’Colly website.
?? compare how several different news sources cover a specific topic or current
event (about 4 or so articles, all from different sources or multiple stories from the
?? read 20+ “tweets” about a specific event or topic (e.g., #blacklivesmatter)
?? watch 4+ episodes of a television show
Articles to use for Paper:
Compare newspaper articles to see if the coverage was more favorable toward one candidate than the other. Do not use any personal opinions about the candidates. This is a content analysis paper
Research question: Did the articles favor one Presidential Candidate over the other?
Can you make a code sheet to attach to paper please?
What to look for when you are coding
Most typically, when coding, researchers have some codes already in mind and are also looking for other ideas that seem to arise out of the data. When coding in this second, open minded manner, Charmaz (writing in the grounded theory tradition) suggests you ask the following questions about the data you are coding:
• “What is going on?
• What are people doing?
• What is the person saying?
• What do these actions and statements take for granted?
• How do structure and context serve to support, maintain, impede or change these actions and statements?” (Charmaz 2003: 94-95)
A more detailed list of the kinds of things that can be coded are Table 1 below. The examples of each kind tend to be descriptive because it makes it easier to explain the phenomena. However, when you are coding it is advisable to move from descriptive codes to more analytic ones as quickly as possible. See the discussion in the next section.
NO. WHAT CAN BE CODED EXAMPLES
1 Behaviours, specific acts Seeking reassurance, Bragging
2 Events – short once in a lifetime events or things people have done that are often told as a story. Wedding day, day moved out of home for university, starting first job
3 Activities – these are of a longer duration, involve other people within a particular setting Going clubbing, attending a night course, conservation work
4 Strategies, practice or tactics Being nasty to get dumped,
Staying late at work to get promotion
5 States – general conditions experienced by people or found in organisations Hopelessness “I’ll never meet anyone better at my age” settling for someone who is not really suitable
6 Meanings – A wide range of phenomena at the core of much qualitative analysis. Meanings and interpretations are important pars of what directs participants actions.
a. What concepts do participants use to understand their world? What norms, values, and rules guide their actions The term ‘chilling out’ is used by young people to mean relaxing and not doing very much
b. What meaning or significance it has for participants, how do they construe events what are the feelings Jealousy “ I just felt why did she get him”
c. What symbols do people use to understand their situation? What names do they use for objects, events, persons, roles, setting and equipment? A PhD is referred to as ‘a test of endurance’ (because finishing a PhD is a challenge)
7 Participation – adaptation to a new setting or involvement About new neighbours “In my new house I have to keep my music down at night as the neighbours have young children”.
8 Relationships or interaction Seeing family “ Now my sister lives in the next road she visits more and we’ve become much closer.
9 Conditions or constraints Lose of job (before financial difficulties), moving away (before lost contact with old friends)
10 Consequences Confidence gets dates, positive attitude attracts opportunities
11 Settings – the entire context of the events under study University, work place, housing estate
12 Reflexive – researcher’s role in the process, how intervention generated the data Probing question “How did you feel when he said that?”
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