But, I’m not an expert or anything. It’s a detail-oriented, time-consuming process.
I recently did a content analysis of 2010 election speeches using the constant comparative method (CCM) (Glaser, 1965). Prior to this analysis, I read extensively about the CCM, but I still wasn’t exactly sure how to employ it. I’m a kinesthetic learner, so it’s often best for me to just jump right in and try something as soon as I have a general idea of how to do it.
I did not use any fancy software. I coded my documents by hand and used MS Word to tally the results as I went. After that, I used MS Excel to sort and clean up the data. This is a time-consuming method of analysis (how many times am I going to say that?). It took well over 10 hours to code two-20 minute speeches. I rechecked one percent of the data, just for verification.
I proceeded in this fashion:
- Every word was considered, but not every word was coded. Conjunctions, filler words such as “however,” weak verbs, and other words determined not to add meaning were discarded.
- All pronouns were coded with their actual name. For example, if the word “they” was used, the word was coded with the actual name—fundamentalists, terrorists, illegal aliens, etc.
- Similar words were grouped and counted together, but the differences were noted (vote, cast your ballot, check that box, etc.).
- If the meaning of words was metaphoric, the entire metaphor fragment was noted in the Metaphor category.
- Words were counted only once. If the words made up a metaphor, they were not included in the general word count.
- After counting the words, the data was checked for errors by recount. One percent of the data was recounted.
About pronouns–the use of pronouns may have importance beyond the word count (Hahn, 2003; Krippendorf, 2004; Stemler, 2001), so you’ll need to decide as you go (emergent) if you’ll note their proximity in your research. In my research, I found the pronouns got in the way a bit–because, who is “he?” In my analysis, I wanted to know exactly who was the subject of the speech. But, because pronouns act in proximity to other words, an analysis of pronouns themselves can be revealing also. As I mentioned above, in my research, whenever I came upon a pronoun, I replaced it with a proper noun (terrorists, electorate, etc).
My results were very revealing. I think the emergent nature of the CCM is key to a content analysis of this type. If you have the freedom to create categories as you go, you can find things you may not have been looking for–there are little surprises you find along the way.
If you have any questions about it, feel free to post in comments. I’ll try to answer them.
Glaser, Barney G. “The Constant Comparative Method of Qualitative Analysis.” Social Problems 12, no. 4 (1965): 436-445.
Hahn, D. (2003). Political Communication: Rhetoric, Government, and Citizens (Second ed.). State College, PA, USA: Strata.
Krippendorff, K. (2004). Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Stemler, S. (2001). An overview of content analysis. Practical Assessment, Research & Evaluation, 7(17). 1.