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After learning about content analysis in lecture, discussing its strengths and drawbacks, and reading two articles using content analysis methods, students will experiment with the methods for themselves. The parameters are set on what data they may analyze, but they may choose between a set of Super Bowl ads and a set of Academy Award-nominated movie posters. Students will develop a coding sheet based on preliminary review of the data, which will assist in organizing the data into analytic categories. In integrative memos, they will develop their analytic categories to explore connections between their data and broader sociological themes, such as cultural representations of race, gender, class, and so on. In their write-up, they will debrief the process, expounding on its strengths and drawbacks, and interrogate the method’s usefulness in the context of a larger qualitative research project.
This activity is designed to help students learn more about gendered socialization practices by engaging them in a systematic coding and analysis of gender markers in adult Halloween costumes.
Content analysis is a valuable research tool for social scientists that unfortunately can prove challenging to teach to undergraduate students. Published classroom exercises designed to teach content analysis have thus far been predominantly envisioned as lengthy projects for upper-level courses. A brief and engaging exercise may be more beneficial for introductory social science courses in which less time can be allotted to any one topic, such as content analysis. With this in mind, this article presents a highly engaging and temporally compact classroom exercise designed to teach introductory social science students about content analysis. In the exercise, students are guided through a content analysis of the music in Harry Potter films. An evaluation study suggests that the exercise improves students’ understanding of content analysis and that students find it both highly helpful and enjoyable.