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Content analysis is a research method for the objective, systematic and quantitative description for the content of the communication.”

– Bernard Berelson

If you ask me, content analysis refers to a popular technique used by many researchers to investigate the content of documents, media and other such material, where the sorting out and recording process is done systematically.

For many years now, content analysis has been used in several areas of research and today, we shall explore its strengths and limitations as a research method.

Advantages of Content Analysis
Advantages of Content Analysis

  • Quantifies Impressions and Observations

Content analysis provides empirical evidence to support and confirm impressions and observations. Numerical data and percentages are more specific and objective than mere impressions and observations. This is an important feature of any quantitative research.

  • Unobtrusive

Unlike interviews and surveys, content analysis does not require the researcher(s) to ask questions to participants. Instead, the content analyst initiates the research from the communication content that has already been produced and is available to them. As content analysis does not require participants to respond to questions, it is considered a non-reactive method. It is unobtrusive and is extremely well suited to the study of sensitive topics about which participants might be reluctant to talk.

  • Handles Large Volumes of Data

Content analysis is a great research method to handle large volumes of data. As a result of the coding and analysis, the findings enable the researcher to gain an insight into the patterns appearing within the data which would be hard to identify with another research method

  • Deals Directly with Communication

Many communication theories, such as the mathematical theory of communication, do not deal with nor consider the content of the message being communicated. These theories focus on the structure and/or stages of the communication act or process. Content analysis differs from these other communication theories. The content analyst works directly with the artifact of human communication, from books to websites or even paintings. Indeed, the content of the message plays a crucial part as that from which inferences and conclusions about the communication are made. By dealing directly with the recorded communication, content analysis assigns an importance, rarely seen in other communication theories, to the message of the communication.

Limitations of content analysis

Limitations of content analysis

In spite of its strengths, content analysis as a research method also has several limitations. They do not mean that content analysis is not useful in the right context. Instead, they enable a researcher to identify when content analysis might not be the best-suited research method to undertake a study.

  • Limited by Availability of Material

Content analysis is limited by the communication content which already exists and is available to researchers. As a result of not asking questions from participants, content analysts cannot obtain material not contained within existing messages. Consequently, inferences are only based on the content of the text being analyzed.

  • Insensitive Data

The data and results of content analysis have certain limitations. A content analyst can only count the frequency or size/time of the unit of analysis. In other words, a content analyst can easily specify how many times a certain word or phrase is utilized. However, the content analysis is unable to provide an insight into the meaning or significance of the unit of analysis each time it is utilized. For example, a content analysis can state how many times the word politics is mentioned in television news stories. However, it is unable to indicate if it is framed in positive or negative terms.

  • Time Consuming

Content analysis can potentially be a time-consuming process. As you have discovered, there are several complex steps when undertaking content analysis. This process can become fairly lengthy, especially when the researcher or research team is dealing with large volumes of data. If the findings are not needed immediately, this limitation is not an issue. However, if the study should produce results within a tight deadline, the researcher must carefully consider the appropriateness of content analysis.

  • Descriptive

Numerical data and statistics are very effective at describing specific phenomena. However, they are not the best tools to reveal causal relationships among several elements, especially when these relationships are fairly complex. As content analysis deals with numerical data and statistics, it faces this same limitation. In the proposed study, the statistics can clearly reveal if women are portrayed in a negative manner or not in Mauritian radio advertisements. However, they are unable to reveal the relationships between the portrayal of women and the gender of the producers, for example.

Do you think content analysis is a reliable research method?

Much of the communication that goes on in business organisations is through written correspondence, which includes e-mail, memoranda, letters, reports, periodicals and proposals.

This article will help you to identify effective business correspondences and will specifically look at e-mails, memos and letters.

Types of Business Correspondence

The use of the proper types of business correspondence can either make or break a business. Having moved on from traditional letters to rapid electronic media, business correspondence is without a doubt one of the most powerful tools in business today.

The most used business correspondence in today’s world include:

Business Emails

Electronic mail otherwise known as e-mail refers to any form of message that is transmitted electronically. The email is perhaps one of the most effective ways of communicating as it is quick, relatively fast, readily available, relatively inexpensive and most of all not dependent on the receivers’ presence. The email is also known as the least formal of all business correspondence.

Emails can be used for the following purposes:

  • Conveying information to friends, family and co-workers.
  • Giving and receiving assignments.
  • Conveying decisions that have been made.
  • Advising staff on urgent matters.
  • Conveying instructions and messages.
  • Marketing of goods and services.
  • Making appointments.

Business Memos

A memo (memorandum) is a written message that is sent internally within the organization. Memos have a twofold purpose: they bring attention to problems and they solve problems. They accomplish their goals by informing the reader about new information like policy changes, price increases, or by persuading the reader to take an action, such as attend a meeting or change a current production procedure. Regardless of the specific goal, memos are most effective when they connect the purpose of the writer with the interests and needs of the reader.

Memos can be used for the following purposes:

  • To inform of a specific purpose.
  • Persuade others to take action.
  • Give feedback on an issue.
  • React to a situation.
  • To communicate due dates or meeting times.
  • Ask for information.
  • To keep staff informed about important events.
  • To confirm discussions or agreements.

Letters

Letters are the most formal of the business correspondence. It is a written message from one organization or individual to another. Its basic function is not only to convey a message but also to influence the recipient. Business letters are highly effective tools that can be used to achieve your purpose.

Letters can be divided into two main categories based on the intended recipients:

1. Business –to – business letters: These are letters that businesses send in normal business situations both internally and externally

2. Business-to- customer letters: These are letters that businesses send to their customers and are usually external.

Different Types of Letters

As letters are the most common form of communication they are used for different functions. The following are examples of some of the different letters that businesses use in their attempt at being efficient.

  • Acknowledgement Letter: This type of letter is written when you want to acknowledge someone for his help or support when you this was requested. The letter can be used to just say thanks for something you have received from someone which is of great help to you.
  • Apology Letter: An apology letter is written for a failure in delivering the desired results. If the person has taken up a task and he failed to meet the target, he can apologize and ask for an opportunity to improve with this type of letter.
  • Appreciation Letter: An appreciation letter is written to appreciate some one’s work in the organization. This type of letter is written by a superior to his junior. An organization can also write an appreciation letter to other organization, thanking the client for doing business with them.
  • Complaint Letter: This is written to show one that an error has occurred and that needs to be corrected as soon as possible. The letter can be used as a document that was used for warning the reader.
  • Inquiry Letter: The letter of inquiry is written to inquire about a product or service. If you have ordered a product and yet not received it then you can write a letter to inquire when you will be receiving it.
  • Order Letter: This letter is as the name suggests is used for ordering products. This letter can be used as a legal document to show the transaction between the customer and vendor.
  • Letter of Recommendation: This type of letter is written to recommend a person for a job position. The letter states the positive aspects of the applicant’s personality and how he/she would be an asset for the organization.

As a businessperson, can you relate to these business correspondences? Please share your comments!

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