Using Content Analysis to Research How Norms Are Strategically Used in Pro-Refugee Advocacy


As part of a multiyear research project, a colleague and I used content analysis to investigate the advocacy discourse surrounding refugee protection in the context of Europe’s refugee crisis, exploring how civil society organizations deliberately draw upon norms to reframe and “repackage” the issue. In this case study, I present an account of how we conducted this extensive content analysis to identify the presence of, and analyze, specific norms. I discuss the various considerations involved in constructing a sample of organizations and selecting the type of information to analyze and offer practical recommendations for how to identify norms and norm-based strategies in advocacy work based on this research study. I also consider lessons that we learned from this experience to provide guidance to researchers who are interested in studying how advocates use norms. Although undertaking a content analysis of this type can be a time-intensive and complex endeavor, it is a practical method for understanding how advocacy groups leverage the power of norms to shift public opinion and ultimately bring about policy change.

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