The SoTL Advocate

SoTL Methods Series #2: Content Analysis


Written by Jennifer Friberg, CSD/SoTL Scholar-Mentor at Illinois State University

Content analysis is defined as systematic and replicable analysis of written, spoken or visual data in order to make inferences from that data with regard to a particular context (Friberg & Cox, 2014). Fraenkel and Wallen describe content analysis as follows (2003, p. 482):

“Content analysis as a methodology is often used in conjunction with other meds, in particular historical and ethnographic research. It can be used in any context in which [a] researcher desires a means of systemizing and (often) quantifying data. It is extremely valuable in analyzing observation and interview data.”

Content analysis can be conducted in an inductive or deductive manner. Both inductive and deductive content analyses involve the arrangement of data into categories for interpretation; however, there are differences in how this occurs. Bishop-Clark and Dietz-Uhler (2012) describe the types of content analysis as follows:

The determination of whether to use inductive or deductive content analysis is typically guided by the topic being studied. Data analyzed through content analysis is coded for interpretation. Content analysis is often used in conjunction with other research methods as part of a mixed-method project.

Exemplar articles using a case study methodology include the following:

Gelbman, S. M. (2011). A qualitative assessment of the learning outcomes of teaching introductory American politics in comparative perspective. Journal of Political Science Education, 7(4), 359–374.

Maldoni, A., Kennelly, R. & Davies, D. (2009). Integrating discipline-based reading to improve intercultural and international learning. International Journal for the Scholarship of teaching and Learning, 3(1), article 8.

Blog References:

Bishop-Clark, C. & Dietz-Uhler, B. (2012). Engaging in the scholarship of teaching and learning: A guide to the process, and how to develop a project from start to finish. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Fraenkel, J. R. & Wallen, N. E. (2003). How to design and evaluate research in education (5th ed). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Friberg, J. & Cox, M. (2014, October). Selecting methodologies for your SoTL research projects workshop: Supplemental workshop resource. Unpublished paper.