What is Content Analysis?

Approved: 
Yes

Content analysis refers to a general set of techniques useful for analysing and understanding collections of text.  There is considerable work done in this area, which predates Internet research by decades.  In the context of understanding the impact of digitised collections and websites, one particularly relevant type of content analysis is the analysis of news articles.  These news articles may be about the collection, or they may be about the type of resource in general.

In the context of understanding impact, these news articles can help you understand several things, including:

  1. How well efforts to publicize the resource are reflected in the news.
  2. For articles that aren't just re-prints of press releases, how is the resource or others like it being framed in the media?  "Framing" is a concept used in fields such as media studies to understand how the public discourse on a topic influences public opinion, and also further public discourse.  So, for instance, if digitisation efforts are being portrayed as efficient ways to make rare materials available, that frame is very different than if articles are suggesting that digitisation grants are an example of wasteful government spending.
  3. From a strictly quantitative perspective, even counts of articles can give you some indication of impact based on frequency of mentions in the media.

Some projects will have lots of external content to analyse, others will have relatively little.

Getting started with qualitative data analysis can be relatively simple, although the possibilities of data analysis are nearly endless. One of the best resources for finding out how to do qualitative research using computer-aided tools is the CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysiS) Networking Project at the University of Surrey. Through the CAQDAS Networking Project, users can get face to face training, online tutorials, and extensive support in the skills needed to work with qualitative data.