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April 24, 2018 / C H Thompson

Qualitative Content Analysis: Thematic and Textual Analysis

  • Thematic Analysis involves trying to understand the intentions which lie behind the production of mass media documents by subjecting a particular area of reportage to detailed investigation.
  • A good example of this is Soothill and Walby’s (1991) study of newspaper reporting of sex crime. They found that the reporting tended to emphasise the danger of being raped in public places and the pathological nature of individual rapists. It tended to ignore the prevalence of rape by partners and friends of victims and the wider context of patriarchal power within sex crimes.
  • Textual Analysis involves examining how different words are linked together in order to encourage readers to adopt a particular view of what is being reported.
  • A classic example of this is the Glasgow University Media Group’s (GUMG) reporting of the miner’s strikes in the 1980s. They found that the miners ‘demanded’ better working conditions, while the managers ‘offered’ certain changes to working conditions.
  • Textual analysis also involves the use of semiology– which is the analysis of signs and symbols.

Evaluative points

  • Qualitative content analysis allows the researcher to look at the full context in which media reporting takes place, it thus allows for a fuller description of what the media is portraying.
  • Both thematic and textual analysis lack objectivity and are reliant on the researcher’s own interpretation of the meaning of media texts.
  • Critics of these forms of analysis have also suggested that those who use these methods tend only to pick samples which reflect their own views, and it would be difficult to do such detailed analysis on a wide range of texts.
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