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Application of Content Analysis in the Field of Journalism

Ian has a bachelor's degree in education and social sciences. How our bodies and brains are linked.

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Content analysis in both the print and visual media has become an essential part of research work in the world today. According to Neuendorf (2002), content analysis can be described as the primary message-centered methodology. It entails studying a wide range of texts from interviews, discussions, editorial, and advertising in the dailies and magazines (Jim, 2005).

The application of content analysis as a research methodology is applied across the communication media, majorly through journalism. Its popularity with the media industry is its efficiency in investigating the media content (Baba 2016). Some ways of carrying out the analysis process are comparing the range of adverts or commercials from different media houses. This article analyses the application of content analysis in the field of journalism.

Development and application of content analysis in Journalism studies

NewsBank announced the return of Daisy Pearce to the AFLW through various articles in their daily magazine. The report first appeared on NewsBank magazines on 8 February 2020. Daisy Pearce was a vital member of the Demons team. She served as a skipper for the demon team earlier but went missing in action for one year because of her pregnancy. The entire time, the Demons played in the AFLW with their skipper sidelined the whole time. Her return was much awaited, as she was a vital squad (NewsBank, 2020). The media's various reports towards her anticipated return are partially based on facts and, to some extent, the reporting journalist's opinions.

To obtain more information about her story, the reporters had to sit her down and conduct an interview with her. According to Thuram (2018), the interview is a contributing factor to content analysis. It provides the interviewer with the opportunity to analyze both the current and past experiences to gauge the respondent's attitude and motivation. Newsbank had many interviews with the player concerning her understanding before, during, and after the pregnancy. In one of her responses, Pearce states that she felt sick and worn out (NewsBank, 2020). Through this, the interviewer assessed Daisy’s thinking on what awaits her as she was trying to make a comeback to the game.

Content analysis has different applications in the media industry. It was used in the past to ascertain what existed and that which never existed. For instance, back in 2001, Can and Mohr relied on content analysis to study the gender of journalists in the Australian newscast. This provided the opportunity to study the news teams for a certain period to come up with the best results (Baba 2016).

By way of comparison, the contents of the various articles from NewsBank shows a variation in the information covered. Both magazine pages have the news about the return of Daisy Pearce to AFLW, dominating the headlines. However, each has other different pieces of information. The popularity of these magazines is dependent on the kind of information that the readers of the magazines would be willing to read. The journalists must write the fascinating articles to attract the most readers of their articles.

Critical differences between quantitative and qualitative data research methods

Both quantitative and qualitative research methodologies are applied to achieve the desired objectives of the research process. However, the two are distinctively different from each other in several aspects.

First qualitative research entails the generation of numerical data or data used in statistical analysis. Qualitative data is used in quantifying variables such as people's opinions, attitudes, and behaviors (Jankowski and Jensen 2002). Qualitative research, on the other hand, is one that seeks to explore the research process. It is used to get an in-depth understanding of reasons, opinions, and motivations towards a particular issue (Abernethy, Riffe, Lacy and Fico 2000). The primary purpose is to provide a better understanding of problems to generate potential ideas to be used in quantitative research.

Secondly, qualitative and quantitative research have different methods of collection. Collection methods of qualitative ranges from the use of structured and semi-structured techniques. These include group discussions, interviews, and making observations or participation. It has a relatively small sample size, with participants selectively chosen (Riffe, Lacy, Fico, and Watson 2019). On the other hand, quantitative data collection methods are more structured than those of qualitative research. They include surveys, online and on paper, online polls, systematic observations, and mobile surveys. Though the two methods are distinct, they complement each other.

Strengths and weaknesses of content analysis methodology

This methodology has its pros and cons in research. Some of which are;

First it directly examines communication through texts. This enables the readers to have a clear understanding of the information passed.

Secondly, it provides room for both qualitative and quantitative analysis (Ostegaard 2007). This provides an in-depth analysis of problems to come up with the best solution. Subsequently, it provides creative historical and cultural insights over time.

Finally, it is considered an exact research method because it provides accurate data when conducted properly (Jim 2005). However, this methodology has some shortcomings. First, the methodology is prone to certain errors, especially when the relational analysis is used to interpret a higher level. Subsequently, the method, to some extent is deficient of a theoretical base or tries to bring out general inferences concerning the relationships and impacts outlined in the study.

Limitations of content analysis

Though the process is associated with numerous successes, it has significant disadvantages. These are: first, the process is extremely time-consuming. Secondly, in many cases consist only of word count. Thirdly, it is hard to automate or computerized. Finally, on many occasions, it disregards the context that led to the text's composition, thereby bringing the state of things or ideas after the text (Weerakkody 2015 and Kramar 2017). Though the process may have underlying changes, it is suitable for data analysis in research practices by students across the globe.


From the above description and understanding of what content analysis entails. One needs to note that the merits of the process outweigh the demerits. It is a vital process in research. However, the process's limitations are not taken lightly as they bring severe challenges to the entire research process. Therefore, researchers and students must exercise the utmost keenness when taking part in content analysis.


Abernethy, A.M., 2000. Daniel Riffe, Stephen Lacy, Frederick G. Fico, Analyzing Media Messages: Using Quantitative Content Analysis in Research, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates: Mahwah, New Jersey, 1998.

Baba, J., 2016. Journalism and communication: Content analysis. USES, Limitations.

Jankowski, N.W. and Jensen, K.B. eds., 2002. A handbook of qualitative methodologies for mass communication research. Routledge.

Jim, M., 2005. Media Content Analysis: Its uses, benefits and best practices methodology, Asia-pacific public relations journal to game

Korenjak Kramar, K., 2017. Prikaz knjige: Weerakkody, Niranjala. 2015. Research Methods for Media and Communication. Media, culture and public relations, 8(1), pp.97-99.

Newsbank, 2020. Daisy returns to the game. [Accessed 17 September]

Østergaard, J., 2007. Differences between quantitative and qualitative research methods. Nordic Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 24(2), pp.212-213.

Riffe, D., Lacy, S., Fico, F. and Watson, B., 2019. Analyzing media messages: Using quantitative content analysis in research. Routledge.

Thurman, N., 2018. Mixed methods communication research: Combining qualitative and quantitative approaches in the study of online journalism. SAGE Research Methods Cases.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2020 Ian Muiruri

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