Content Analysis

A Brief History of Content Analysis

Historically, content analysis was a time consuming process. Analysis was done manually, or slow mainframe computers were used to analyze punch cards containing data punched in by human coders. Single studies could employ thousands of these cards. Human error and time constraints made this method impractical for large texts. However, despite its impracticality, content analysis was already an often utilized research method by the 1940's. Although initially limited to studies that examined texts for the frequency of the occurrence of identified terms (word counts), by the mid-1950's researchers were already starting to consider the need for more sophisticated methods of analysis, focusing on concepts rather than simply words, and on semantic relationships rather than just presence (de Sola Pool 1959). While both traditions still continue today, content analysis now is also utilized to explore mental models, and their linguistic, affective, cognitive, social, cultural and historical significance.

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