Qualitative Content Analysis: Why is it Still a Path Less Taken?

Bammidi Devi Prasad


The history of content analysis is largely the history of quantitative content analysis. Although qualitative content analysis (QCA) was used in scholarly writings, it remained largely limited to an explorative, impressionistic, and less pragmatic role. Researchers who laid the foundations for the method of content analysis and coined it as a significant quantitative research method were influenced by the logical positivism popular in the 1940s and the dominance of quantitative forms of analysis, especially in Anglo-Saxon regions. These and other trends overshadowed the methodological developments in QCA, although critical voices raised objections to the over-reliance on quantification and analysis of manifest content at the expense of the deeper meanings in the text. Against this background, I make an attempt to look back briefly at the history and significance of QCA, and then critically examine the main reasons for the marginalization of QCA in the broader Anglo-Saxon vs. Continental context in comparison to its quantitative counterpart. While the stronger presence of qualitative research, including QCA, is explained by the dominance of hermeneutic intellectual traditions in Germany and other non-English speaking countries, their general marginalization is related to the methodological uncertainty, positivist quantitative orthodoxy in evaluating qualitative methods, and epistemological and ontological ambiguity connected to the approach. Based on the discussion, I provide some reflections on the future developments of QCA.


qualitative content analysis; quantitative content analysis; qualitative research; quality criteria for content analysis; methods of social science research

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-20.3.3392

Copyright (c) 2019 Devi Prasad Bammidi

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