Use and Application Domains of Content Analysis

Use and Application Domains of Content Analysis

Authors: Carolina Afonso, ISEG (Lisbon School of Economics and Management), Universidade de Lisboa ([email protected]); Ronaldo Linhares, Universidade Tiradentes ([email protected]); António Pedro Costa, Ludomedia e Universidade de Aveiro ([email protected])

Afonso, C., Linhares, R. N., & Costa, A. P. (2018). Usos e Domínios de Aplicação da Análise de Conteúdo (Nota Introdutória). Ámbitos. Revista Internacional de Comunicación, (39). Retrieved from 

Content analysis was first developed in the field of Communication Sciences in the first decades of the twentieth century. At this stage content analysis was closely associated with the analysis of the media with the aim of understanding its impact on society. Currently, the analysis of content has evolved into other areas and it is a technique that analyzes mainly the forms of verbal communication, written or non-written, that materialize among individuals, thus encompassing both the literary text and interviews or speeches.

Nowadays content analysis is a research technique widely used in qualitative research. In terms of definition, content analysis is defined by Bardin (1977, p. 42) as a “set of techniques of analysis of communications aiming to obtain by systematic procedures and objectives of description of message content, indicators (quantitative or not) that allow the inference knowledge of the conditions of production / reception (inferred variables) of these messages”.

Cole (1988) cited by Elo and Kyngäs (2008) adds that content analysis is a “method for analyzing communication of written, verbal or visual messages”. It is a flexible method, where there are no simple guidelines for data analysis, which makes it a challenge for the researcher. One of the advantages of this method is the use of large volumes of information and data sources used to confirm evidence.

According to Bardin (1977), “it seems difficult to define the analysis of content from its territory, because, at first sight, everything that is communication (and even meaning) seems susceptible of analysis” (p. 33). As previously argued, content analysis is the only one that focuses on unstructured material, such as interviews, media articles, historical or sociological documents, thus analyzing different sources of content, which can be verbal and non-verbal (Silva & Fossá, 2013). The domains of application of the content analysis thus present a rather wide range.

Content analysis has been viewed by several authors as an analysis that allows the treatment of “sensitive content” (Krippendorff, 1980, quoted by Elo & Kyngäs, 2008, p. 108), and as being “flexible in the design of the research “(Harwood & Garry, 2003, quoted by Elo & Kyngäs, 2008, p. 108). For this reason, the uses and domains of application of content analysis have focused on areas as varied as literature, social policy (influence studies and propaganda analysis), economics (studies of motivation and group functioning), therapeutic (personality analysis), social representations, and also in the area of ​​health that, according to Hsieh & Shannon (2005), is an area where content analysis has been widely used. For example, studies by Graneheim & Lundman (2004) and Elo & Kyngäs (2008) have applied the techniques and methods of content analysis in contexts of case studies in nursing. Graneheim & Lundman (2004), for example, used interviews to describe adaptation strategies related to the daily stresses of life of individuals with diabetes, and observation to clarify how a woman with dementia and behavioral disorders acts in relation to the provider of care and how it works with women. Also in the area of ​​educational psychology was the use of content analysis. Faux (2000) used content analysis in the field of educational psychology, with the aim of analyzing how university students applied the knowledge acquired to solve certain problems presented through case studies (Faux, 2000).

The marketing area also uses content analysis. Carson & Coviello (1996), address the emergence of qualitative research in the context of research in marketing and entrepreneurship. Due to the similarities between these areas, models and research processes appropriate for marketing can also be applied and / or adapted to the area of ​​entrepreneurship and vice versa. For this type of research, qualitative research may be the most appropriate approach, particularly in terms of longitudinal and cross-sectional studies, since, as Carson and Coviello (1996) refer to as Hofer and Bygrave (1992), entrepreneurship involve discontinuities and dynamic processes, the study of them must be of a longitudinal character.

Within this context, content analysis is multidisciplinary and in this edition of the Âmbitos we have several examples of studies in several disciplines that are illustrative of the various uses and applications of this technique.


BARDIN, L. (1977).: Análise de Conteúdo. Lisboa: Edições 70.

CARSON, D., & Coviello, N.: “Qualitative research issues at the marketing/entrepreneurship interface”. Marketing Intelligence & Planning, vol. 14 (1996)., nº6, pp. 51-58.

ELO, S., & Kyngäs, H.: “The qualitative content analysis process”. Journal of Advanced Nursing, vol. 62 (2008), nº1, pp. 107-115.

FAUX, R. B.: “A description of the uses of content analyses and interviews in educational/psychological research”. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 1 (2000), nº1, pp. 1-9.

GRANEHEIM, U. H., & Lundman, B. (2004).: “Qualitative content analysis in nursing research: concepts, procedures and measures to achieve trustworthiness”. Nurse education today, vol. 24 (2004), nº2, pp. 105-112.

SILVA, A. H., & Fossá, M. I. T.: “Análise de conteúdo: Exemplo de aplicação da técnica para análise de dados qualitativos”. Qualitas Revista Eletrônica, vol. 17 (2015), nº1, pp. 1-14.

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