Thursday, May 12, 2016

An In-Class Assignment for Doing Content Analysis

I love content analysis. Recently, I messed around with the idea of doing a content analysis of the HDTV show Love it or List It. An idea for an in-class assignment in my Research Methods course occurred to me yesterday when I was scrolling through pictures on my iPhone. I've had my iPhone for two years. It was fun to look back and reminisce through two years of pictures. I noticed that most of my pictures are of my kids. I tend to take pictures of my younger son when he sleeps in my car. I have some pictures of my older son after getting a haircut, and pictures of him reading. I have pictures of the kids eating. I also take the occasional selfie. Another category is pictures that capture home improvement projects in progress. I also take a lot of pictures of events and scenery in the city of Buffalo. There are lots of family pictures: my wife, my parents, my in-laws. I'll show a few pictures at the end.

As for the assignment, I'll ask students to pay attention to any themes they notice in looking through their pictures. I will, of course, tell them they don't have to share any information they deem to be sensitive. I'm guessing 20-year-olds take pictures that aren't all PG-13. But I imagine they could still break down their pictures into different categories. This will serve as an exercise to supplement an example of content analysis of teen magazines I share in class. Other good examples of content analysis include Philip Cohen's analysis of gender of New York Times writers and an analysis of sociology textbooks by Peter Kaufman and Richard Bente.

So here are some pictures that illustrate two main themes: kids and selfies. This is a sample of what's on my phone. What's on yours?

His first New York City pretzel!


  1. THANK YOU! I'm an assistant professor of communication studies at SUNY Fredonia and this spring I'm teaching Research Methods for the first time. I've spent my winter break trying to create/find engaging classroom activities and projects and was just not finding what I wanted for content analysis. I love this idea - it's student-focused, fun and imaginative. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi Amanda,
      Thanks for writing! Hope this works out with your students. I'd love to hear how it goes. Huge fan on Fredonia, btw. I'm an alum (class of 1994). Take care.

    2. What a small world! I'm doing this activity toward the end of the semester - late April. I've entitled it "What's in YOUR Gallery?" I think it's going to be a fun exercise. I'll let you know how it goes!