Content Analysis


In sociology, content analysis is the extensive analysis of texts of various types including writing, images, variations of social media, recordings and cultural artifacts. Content analysis can include both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

A content analysis study typically has seven parts: (Treadwell 2014)

  • Develop a hypothesis or research question about communication content.
  • Define the content to be analyzed.
  • Sample the universe of content. “Universe” has the same meaning for media content as “population” does for people.
  • Select units for coding.
  • Develop a coding scheme.
  • Assign each occurrence of a unit in the sample to a code in the coding scheme.
  • Count occurrences of the coded units and report their frequencies.

Software (click here for a complete list of content analysis software)

The purpose of ATLAS.ti is to help researchers uncover and systematically analyze complex phenomena hidden in unstructured data (text, multimedia, geospatial). The program provides tools that let the user locate, code, and annotate findings in primary data material, to weigh and evaluate their importance, and to visualize the often complex relations between them (Lewins and Silver 2007).

Dedoose is an alternative to other qualitative data analysis software, explicitly aimed at facilitating rigorous mixed methods research. This program facilitates the coding and analysis of qualitative data and their integration with demographic and other quantitative data. Dedoose is in use by marketing, ethnographic, clinical trial, social policy, education, and other research professionals.

\WordStat is a flexible and easy-to-use text analysis software – whether you need text mining tools for fast extraction of themes and trends, or careful and precise measurement with state-of-the-art quantitative content analysis tools. WordStat can be used by anyone who needs to quickly extract and analyze information from large amounts of documents.

Book to Consider: Lewins, Ann, and Christina Silver. 2007. Using Software in Qualitative Research: A Step-by-Step Guide. SAGE.

How to Learn Content Analysis

Associations and Journals


Lie to Me: An American crime drama television series. It originally ran on the Fox network from January 21, 2009 to January 31, 2011. In the show, Dr. Cal Lightman (Tim Roth) and his colleagues in The Lightman Group accept assignments from third parties (commonly local and federal law enforcement), and assist in investigations, reaching the truth through applied psychology (and sociology!): interpreting micro-expressions, through the Facial Action Coding System, and body language.

Gendered Language in Teacher Reviews: An interactive chart lets you explore the words used to describe male and female teachers in about 14 million reviews from

Feminist Frequency: The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies

More Information/Resources

Messinger, A. M. 2012. “Teaching Content Analysis through Harry Potter.” Teaching Sociology 40(4):360–67.

Your Favorite YA Novels Get A Fascinating Textual Analysis

Hsieh, Hsiu-Fang, and Sarah E. Shannon. 2005. “Three Approaches to Qualitative Content Analysis.Qualitative Health Research 15(9):1277–88.

White, Anniaka. 2010. “A Content Analysis of Popular Themes and Sexuality in Rap and Reggae Music.” Washington State University.

Written by: Janae Teal
Last updated: 10 November  2014

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