How To Get Started With Content Analysis In Qualitative Research?

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Content Analysis

Content analysis in qualitative research effectively yields reliable and transparent results to answer the study’s questions. Researchers build codes and analyse them quantitatively or qualitatively to generate meaningful inferences. The new researchers should learn how to analyse the data through content analysis. This article is helpful for researchers as it outlines the steps of conducting effective content analysis in qualitative research.

  • What Is Content Analysis In Qualitative Research?

Content analysis in qualitative research refers to identifying and analysing themes, codes and patterns in order to form secondary data. The secondary data sources entail published documents, articles, annual reports, and biographies. Content analysis can be qualitative (explanation or understanding) or quantitative (measuring and counting). By analysing the second-hand data, the researcher can quantify or qualify the presence of certain themes or codes to answer the study’s research questions. For instance, the most relevant keyword is favouritism or preference to answer the research questions (to examine nepotism in private organisations). By quantifying or qualifying the presence of these themes, researchers can examine nepotism in organisations. 

There are widespread benefits of content analysis in qualitative research. The researcher can gather data without his direct involvement. The absence of the researcher is effective in not influencing the data collection process. The analysis can take place anywhere without limitation of the time, software or cost as well. Yet, this process is complex to present meaningful inferences if codes are not defined and categorised. 

  • What Are The Five Steps In Content Analysis?

A researcher interested in content analysis should develop a clear and researchable research questions first. The clear research questions guide the researcher about the data collection process. The following five steps are effective in conducting content analysis in qualitative research;

  1. Outline the content

Researchers should select the content for analysis. The decision of the content involves the most suitable medium, such as websites or annual reports. It may include the inclusion criteria like websites relevant to the research questions. Moreover, inclusion criteria may be organisation’s annual reports under study. It involves parameters as well, such as location. The researcher needs to select the content that best fit the study’s research questions. After selecting the content, they should identify the need for the samples or not for data collection purposes. 

Researchers should select all the possible data sources if there is small data. If large data exists, researchers can sample the appropriate population/subject/year while gathering data. For instance, sampling of the year entails data collection from 2018 to 2020. Similarly, the population sampling involves data collection from only university students between the ages of 20-25 using YouTube. However, there is an option to buy dissertation online in case of any difficulty.

  1. Defining the themes or codes

In the next step, the researcher should define the meaning of a theme or code. For instance, the meaning of preference is practising nepotism in an organisation. By defining themes or codes, the researcher should categorise them as either quantitative or qualitative. For instance, the age of university students from 20-25 is a quantitative category. The qualitative category entails preference or favouritism. Hence, content analysis in qualitative research involves defining themes and categorising them.

  1. Developing coding rules

Researchers should develop rules on the basis of which codes and themes are defined and categorised. For instance, nepotism practice will include only preference and favouritism instead of bias. The aim of developing coding rules is to ensure consistency, transparency and reliability. 

  1. Coding the text  

It is important for the research to code each theme or pattern according to the rules as defined and categorised. This process can either use the manual method (hand-writing) or the digital method (laptop). Using a laptop will speed up the coding of the large quantitative or qualitative data. The coding of the text can either involve the interpretation or numeric figures that represent a true and fair picture of the information. 

  1. Analysis of the coded data

After making suitable and appropriate codes, the next step is to analyse the coded data. The researcher examines the collected data thoroughly to identify patterns. The coded data can be analysed by using statistical or non-statistical means. Statistical analysis assists in exhibiting the correlation between patterns or trends over a period of time. On the other hand, non-statistical analysis interprets the patterns by considering ‘why’ and ‘what’. After identifying patterns, the researchers can draw inferences that best answer the study’s research questions. 

  • What are some examples of content analysis?

Following examples of content analysis in qualitative research will help researchers in learning its techniques and processes;

Sr.NoData Analysis TechniqueResearch QuestionCodesStatistical AnalysisNon-statistical AnalysisExplanation
1Content AnalysisWhat are major environmental issues that are subject to affect the sustainability of organisations?Waste (Solid, Liquid, Gas), Water pollution, CO2 EmissionWaste (Solid, Liquid, Gas): 87%Water pollution: 82%CO2 Emission: 80%87% sustainability is affected by waste resources than other factors water pollution (82%) and CO2 Emission (80%).
2What leadership styles an entrepreneurial leader uses to bring innovation and creativity in the organisation?Risk-taking ability, Consultative Decision making, Engagement and encouragement,Transfers authority and responsibility.Consultative leadership style (Consultative Decision making, Engagement and encouragement. Democratic leadership Style (Transfers authority and Risk-taking ability responsibility)Entrepreneurial leadership possessed a consultative and democratic leadership style to enhance creativity and innovation in organisations.
3What are the prominent causes of heart diseases in men between ages 40-60?Smoking, Alcohol consumption.Smoking (89%), Alcohol consumption (76%).Heart diseases in men are greater for smokers than alcohol-consuming men.

Final Thoughts

Content analysis in qualitative research is a primary method that assists researchers in answering the research questions. They can answer them by building suitable codes using secondary data. The codes are then analysed by using statistical and non-statistical techniques to infer meanings. Yet, if coding gets wrong, then findings will be invalid as a result. So, researchers should learn its techniques first before conducting a content analysis in qualitative research