, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 65-77

Reflections: Ethnographic content analysis

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An ethnographic approach to document analysis is offered based on principles of qualitative data collection and analysis. It is proposed that numeric as well as narrative data be collected when studying such documents as TV new and movies. Ethnographic content analysis is briefly contrasted with conventional modes of quantitative content analysis to illustrate the usefulness of constant comparison for discovering emergent patterns, emphases and themes in an analysis of TV news coverage of the Iranian hostage situation. It is suggested that an ethnographic perspective can help delineate patterns of human action when document analysis is conceptualized as fieldwork.

This draft has benefitted from comments and suggestions by Robert Emerson, Shulamit Reinharz, and three anonymous reviewers. An earlier draft of this paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Pacific Sociological Association, Albuquerque, NM, April 17–20, 1985.