●Constructs in content analysis are operationalized with a coding system.
●A coding system is a set of instructions or rules on how to systematically observe and record content from text (e.g.,television drama,novels,and photographs in magazine advertisements).
●A coding system on crime reporting might include the following codes: type of crime,region of crime,length of story,reporting of motive,expressions of fear,and presentations of outrage or sympathy.
●Units of analysis o A common problem in existing statistics is finding the appropriate units of analysis.Many statistics are published for aggregates,not the individual.For example,a table in a government document has information (e.g.,unemployment rate,crime rate)for a province,but the unit of analysis for the research question is the individual (e.g.,"Are unemployed people more likely to commit property crimes?").The potential for committing the ecological fallacy is very real in this situation.It is less of a problem for secondary survey analysis because researchers can obtain raw information on each respondent from archives.o Categories of variable attributes may also become a problem when the original data were collected in broad categories or ones that do not match the needs of a researcher.For example,a researcher is interested in people of Asian heritage.If the racial and ethnic heritage categories in a document are "White," "Black," and "Other," the researcher has a problem.The "Other" category includes people of Asian and other heritages.
o Validity problems occur when the researcher's theoretical definition does not match that of the government agency or organization that collected the information.Official policies and procedures specify definitions for official statistics.For example,a researcher defines a work injury as including minor cuts,bruises,and sprains that occur on the job,but the official definition in government reports only includes injuries that require a visit to a physician or hospital.
o Another validity problem arises when official statistics are a surrogate or proxy for a construct in which a researcher is really interested.This is necessary because the researcher cannot collect original data.
o A third validity problem arises because the researcher lacks control over how information is collected.All information,even that in official government reports,is originally gathered by people in bureaucracies as part of their jobs.A researcher depends on them for collecting,organizing,reporting,and publishing data accurately.Systematic errors in collecting the initial information (e.g.,census enumerators who avoid poor neighbourhoods and make up information,or people who put a false age on a driver's licence),errors in organizing and reporting information (e.g.,a police department that is sloppy about filing crime reports and loses some),and errors in publishing information (e.g.,a typographical error in a table)all reduce measurement validity.
o Problems develop when official definitions change over time such as,for example,the definition of work injury,disability,or unemployment.
o Problems also issue from changes or inconsistencies in the methods of collecting information.For example,when police departments computerize their records,there is an apparent increase in crimes reported,not because crime increases but due to improved record keeping.Likewise,when comparing statistics about populations of different nations,researchers must appreciate that national governments use different procedures for collecting information about their populations.
o One problem that plagues researchers who use existing statistics and documents is that of missing data.Sometimes the data were collected but have been lost.More frequently,the data were never collected.The decision to collect official information is made within government agencies.The decision to ask questions on a survey whose data are later made publicly available is made by a group of researchers.In both cases,those who decide what to collect may not collect what another researcher needs to address a research question.Government agencies start or stop collecting information for political,budgetary,or other reasons.