Hard or Soft Searching? Electronic Database Versus Hand Searching in Media Research

  • Stephannie C. Roy University of Toronto
  • Guy Faulkner University of Toronto
  • Sara-Jane Finlay University of Toronto
Keywords: computerised indexes, hand-searching, media analysis, reliability


It is important for qualitative media researchers to consider the impact of their research objectives on the sample frame imposed and subsequent data-collection methods. To illustrate this, we present some of the issues we encountered in determining a method of gathering physical activity articles in daily newspapers. We consider the implications of search choices for our sample, highlight the impact of using hardcopy hand-searches and electronic indexes and emphasise the importance of conducting a study to determine the reliability of hand-searching versus electronic index search methods. We suggest that researchers should be aware of the benefits and drawbacks of search methods including what kinds of information these methods yield and the possible effects on the research project. We conclude by highlighting the importance of these discussions to the reliability of content analysis. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0703204


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Author Biographies

Stephannie C. Roy, University of Toronto
Stephannie C. ROY PhD., is a Post-Doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Physical Education and Health at the University of Toronto. Her research interests centre around the practices of health communication in the media including the processes of inception, production and reception and qualitative analyses of media representations of women's health.
Guy Faulkner, University of Toronto
Guy FAULKNER PhD., is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Physical Education and Health at the University of Toronto. Guy's research interests lie primarily within the field of physical activity and psychological well-being. He is also interested in qualitative research. In particular, the use of ethnographic techniques, and conversation analysis are of interest.
Sara-Jane Finlay, University of Toronto
Sara-Jane FINLAY received her doctorate in Media Sociology from Loughborough University in the UK. She taught in Southampton and Plymouth before returning to Canada. While still teaching in media and visual culture, she is the Director, Academic Human Resources in the Office of the Vice President and Provost at the University of Toronto where she is responsible for the recruitment, integration and retention of faculty and conducts research on the faculty life cycle with an emphasis on equity and diversity.
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