Knight (2002) explains that unobtrusive methods, which I am assuming includes content analysis, are hard for researchers to feel “confident” about. He argues that it is hard to know what the data collected and the measurements used mean (Knight, 2002, p.109). He also states that, as a result, unobtrusive methods usually need to be shored up by a mixed methods approach (Knight, 2002, p.109). Thomas (1994), on the other hand, argues that content analysis is no more prone to being reliant on subjective inferences than other methods (p.685) and that content analysis has the benefit of at least forcing researchers to be more transparent about methodology (p.691).
I still find Thomas’s (1994) take on authorial intent a little questionable as she states after tearing down other methodologies for similar tactics that “presumed” authorial intent can still be measured by creating coding schemes (p.690). She also states that content analysis can “speculate only on what has been systematically collected and objectified” (Thomas, 1994, p.695). Like Nick’s previous posting, we’re stuck in a position where we’re trying to measure external behaviour and internal perspectives. It’s probably unlikely you can do both with the same tool.
Knight, P.T. (2002). Small-Scale Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Thomas, S. (1994). Artifactual study in the analysis of culture: A defense of content analysis in a postmodern age. Communication Research. 21(6), 683-97