Synopsis Seven: Research methods, textual analysis

Textual analysis is a popular research method of communication scholars who focus on the structure of messages as they appear in texts (written or spoken). Both quantitative and qualitative methods can serve researchers in this area, who usually divide work into three categories:

* Critical views and studies.

* Formal content analysis.

* Interaction and relational analysis of conversations.

Critical views, a qualitative method, primarily focuses on rhetorical criticism. If rhetoric is the study of persuasion, then researchers in this area base their qualitative critiques on accepted standards of quality. Standards may be as old as those of Aristotle. Neo-Aristotlean standards examine:

* invention, that is the source of ideas, appealing to three categories: ethos (speaker's credibility) pathos (emotional or motivational appeals) and logos (logical appeals).

* arrangement, organization of the message.

* style, choice of vocabulary, clarity.

* Delivery, non-verbal cues, voice, eye contact.

Memory is no longer used in this standard of rhetorical criticism. Other more modern standards include Burke's Dramatistic Criticism. People interested in this kind of research need to carefully study these standards, apply them to the text, and analyze.

Formal content analysis is primarily a tool of mass communication researchers, and is usually quantitative. Researchers monitor a broadcast or examine a text for patterns of word usage or other content. Coding units are used to classify material. Researchers usually work from a sample, based on random choice, stratification, or other means. A problem of content analysis is the "fully/only" dilemma: do we rate what we find as unusually high or unusually low? Often these studies must rely on other studies to compare results. As well, a content analysis can only describe data, not draw causal relationships.

Interaction/conversational analysis is based on examination of interpersonal communication. Researchers group and analyze "utterances" of "dyads" (interaction between two people) based on standard measures. One commonly-used measure is Bales Interaction Process Analysis. Another is the Relational Control Analysis (to determine patterns of control in a relationship). This type of research is often difficult to set up, as permission is needed to record a group, and tapes or transcripts may be hard to code.