Content Analysis, Qualitative


This entry focuses on qualitative content analysis as a rule-guided method for describing and conceptualizing the meaning of qualitative data. Following a brief introduction to core characteristics of the method, the history of the method is described, including its origins in the quantitative version of the method as well as the divergent history of qualitative content analysis in the English and German literature. Next, core defining characteristics of the method are described, with a focus on qualitative content analysis being at once systematic, flexible, and reducing the amount of qualitative data. Based on these defining characteristics, different variants of qualitative content analysis are introduced and compared, such as deductive and inductive, thematic and formal, and type-building qualitative content analysis. The main part of the contribution focuses on describing and illustrating the steps in qualitative content analysis: deciding on a research question and selecting material; creating a preliminary version of the coding frame, including strategies for arriving at main categories and subcategories and how to define categories; piloting and modifying the coding frame, including a discussion of quality criteria, especially reliability and validity; the main coding phase (i.e., applying the coding frame to the entire material); and various strategies for presenting the results of qualitative content analysis. To conclude, recent developments concerning the method are described. These include attempts to strengthen the specifically qualitative elements of the method and discussing the role of qualitative content analysis in the context of big data and text mining.

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