Core Principles to study media content using Quantitative Content Analysis

By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, Editor, Word for Peace

Quantitative content analysis employs various tools and methods to study media content. The broad nature of the field has led to an assortment of definitions over the years.

According to Dr. Klaus Krippendorff of the Frankfurt school, content analysis implies:

A systematic reading of a body of texts, images and symbolic matters, not necessarily from an authors perspective. (K. Krippendroff (2004).

Going by Berelsons definition, content analysis is:

A research technique for the objective, systematic and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication. (Deacon et al. (1999).

Thus, content analysis is an apt media research method to identify and quantify the messages, while, at the same time, providing scope for qualitative interpretation and analysis.

The quantitative content analysis has been used to study social media, corporate communications, website visits, elections, etc. With an increase of both the amount of data available, and the capabilities of computers, quantitative research is being used in a growing number of fields now.

There are 5 types of texts in content analysis:

1. Written texts (books, papers, etc.),

2. Oral texts (speech, theatre plays, etc.),

3. Iconic texts (drawings, paintings, icons, etc.),

4. Audio-visual texts (TV programs, movies, videos, etc.),

5. Hypertexts (they can be one or more of the texts above, on the Internet).

Moreover, content analysis can also study the documents from past times (traces) and non-linguistic documents (artifacts), which come from communication processes in a broad sense of that phrase – commonly referred to as “signification” in Semiotics. But the question is: How does one go about conducting qualitative content analysis study?

How does one go about conducting qualitative content analysis study?

In his seminal work entitled, Content Analysis: An Introduction to Its Methodology, Dr. Klaus Krippendorff presents an outline of the components of content analysis and identifies its core principles. He writes that for conducting quantitative content analysis, one has to engage in these five things (Krippendorff, 2004; ch. 4-9):

(1) Designing The Content Analysis,

(2) Defining Units,

(3) Sampling,

(4) Recording And Coding,

(5) Data Language

The quantitative content analysis starts with word frequencies, space measurements, column centimeters, or inches in the case of newspapers, time counts for radio and television and keyword frequencies. According to Dr. Krippendorff, there are six important questions that must be problematised in every content analysis:

1. Which data are analyzed?

2. How are they defined?

3. What is the population from which they are drawn?

4. What is the context relative to which the data are analysed?

5. What are the boundaries of the analysis?

6. What is the target of the inferences?

In content analysis, it is assumed that while analyzing the data, words and phrases are something that reflects the prime concerns in every communication. Nevertheless, content analysis is not confined to merely counting the plain words. This is something more than that. For instance, words can be analyzed in their specific context to be disambiguated. Synonyms and homonyms can be isolated in accordance to linguistic properties of a language.

Qualitative Content Analysis

As for the qualitative content analysis, it involves any kind of analysis where communication content i.e. oral statements, speech texts, written words, interviews, images etc. is put into categories. Initially, this content analysis was done by measuring the number of lines and amount of space given a subject, using the first newspapers at the end of 19th century.

The editor of Word for Peace isIndependentWriter, Cultural Analyst and FreelanceJournalist,Comparative Religion & Classical Islamic Studies Scholar,Commentator on Muslim Affairs in Media and Regular Columnist and Researcher in Communication Studies (Doctoral Research Scholar at Centre for Culture, Media & Governance (JMI Central University). Contact him at

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