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


  • Bammidi Devi Prasad Tata Institute of Social Sciences




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


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.


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Author Biography

Bammidi Devi Prasad, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Bammidi DEVI PRASAD is former professor and chair at the Centre for Equity and Justice for Children and Families, School of Social Work, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, India. Prior to that he was professor at Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, India. His main research interests are families, children, gender, social policy, and the development sector. On the methodological front, his main interests include the methodologies of qualitative and quantitative research and more specifically, content analysis.




How to Cite

Devi Prasad, B. (2019). Qualitative Content Analysis: Why is it Still a Path Less Taken?. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 20(3). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-20.3.3392



Conceptualizations of Qualitative Content Analysis